In India, Facebook’s WhatsApp Plays Central Role in Elections

Excerpt from this article:

Milling on a vast field with his college buddies, Mr. Bhat, 18, cheered for Mr. Modi and his Hindu-oriented Bharatiya Janata Party, which was trying to wrest control of Karnataka state from the more secular Indian National Congress in legislative elections.

Yet the most intense political campaigning was not taking place on the streets. Instead, the action was happening on WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook that has about 250 million users in India.

Mr. Bhat, a B.J.P. youth leader, said he used WhatsApp to stay in constant touch with the 60 voters he was assigned to track for the party. He sent them critiques of the state government, dark warnings about Hindus being murdered by Muslims — including a debunked B.J.P. claim that 23 activists were killed by jihadists — and jokes ridiculing Congress leaders. His own WhatsApp stream was full of election updates, pro-B.J.P. videos, and false news stories, including a fake poll purportedly commissioned by the BBC that predicted a sweeping B.J.P. win.

Advertisements

Older Indians Drive Millennials Crazy On WhatsApp. This Is Why They’re Obsessed.

Excerpt from this article:

WhatsApp is now an inextricable part of India’s culture. The app has more than 200 million users in the country, and it’s nearly as large as Facebook’s Indian user base itself. And while it’s widely used by millennials, it’s really older Indians —  people like my mother, her friends, and extended family  —  who’ve embraced it with striking passion and sincerity.

“To my parents, WhatsApp isn’t just an instant messenger,” said Devang Pathak, a 25-year-old writer from Mumbai. “It’s an entire social network. It’s where they catch up with family and friends, it’s where they get their news, and it’s where they watch a ton of videos. They use it so much it scares me.”

Digitally savvy millennials in India post Stories on Instagram, share memes on Facebook, watch videos on YouTube, keep up on Twitter, and chat with each other on Facebook Messenger. But older Indians have incorporated the most compelling features of these platforms right into WhatsApp. Vacation pictures don’t go on Facebook or Instagram, videos don’t go on YouTube, and jokes and wisecracks don’t go on Twitter. For older Indians, WhatsApp is the ultimate social network.

“Honestly, Facebook is a little complex for me,” said my mother. “And it’s not a place where I can reach everyone I care about at once like I can do in a WhatsApp group. And it’s also not, well, private.”

An aunt, who is in her late sixties and who began using WhatsApp about six months ago, is now a notorious serial forwarder. But she likes it for other reasons as well. “It’s my music player,” she said. “People I know send me so many music clips on WhatsApp and I don’t know how to play music on my phone.”

4 innovative ways India is using WhatsApp

A boy uses a mobile phone as he sits inside his father's snacks shop along a road in Kolkata, India, February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX27ZEW

Excerpt from this article:

In recent years, the authorities have caught on to WhatsApp’s potential for engaging more directly with the Indian public, especially in some of the country’s megacities.

Increasing women’s safety

A WhatsApp safety group enables New Delhi women who travel by public transport to send photos and details of the vehicle to the police before boarding it. Set up as both a deterrent for sex crimes and to boost women’s confidence, the group can also be used to alert the police in emergencies.

Reporting offences…

Holding politicians to account…

Helping flood victims

WhatsApp, Crowds and Power in India

Excerpt from this article:

The gifts of free usage and anonymity have made WhatsApp the most popular tool to spread both outlandish stories and politically motivated rumors. On an ordinary Indian morning, messages on the app can include the rumor of a popular mango drink being laced with H.I.V.-positive blood, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s rating of Narendra Modi as the best prime minister in the world or Julian Assange describing him as an incorruptible leader.

WhatsApp forwards are deftly tailored toward target audiences. Last year, the Indian middle class debated for weeks whether new 2000 rupee bills introduced by the Indian government after demonetization featured a chip that could be used to track the bills. There was no chip, but the rumor lived for a while.

Nationalist rage, often with sectarian overtones, dominates the world of India’s WhatsApp messages. One of the most popular WhatsApp hoaxes of this year featured the purported beheading of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani soldiers with a chain saw and a knife. India’s national song played in the background.

No, Google’s Not a Bird: Bringing the Internet to Rural India

Excerpt from this article:

Babulal Singh Neti was sitting with his uncle on a recent afternoon, trying to persuade him of the merits of the internet.

…Mr. Neti, 38, pressed on earnestly, suggesting that he could demonstrate the internet’s potential by Googling the history of the Gond tribe, to which they both belonged. Since acquiring a smartphone, Mr. Neti couldn’t stop Googling things: the gods, Hindu and tribal; the relative merits of the Yadav caste and the Gonds; the real story of how the earth was made.

Access to this knowledge so elated him that he decided to give up farming for good, taking a job with a nongovernmental organization whose goals include helping villagers produce and call up online content in their native languages. When he encountered internet skeptics, he tried to impress them by looking up something they really cared about — like Gond history.

His uncle responded with half-closed eyes, delivering a brief but comprehensive oral history of the Gond kings, with the clear implication that his nephew was a bit of a good-for-nothing. “What does it mean, Google?” his uncle said. “Is it a bird?”

…So it is instructive to follow Mr. Neti as he tries to drum up a little interest in Taradand. Young men use the internet here, but only young men, and almost exclusively to circulate Bollywood films. Older people view it as a conduit for pornography and other wastes of time.

Women are not allowed access even to simple mobile phones, for fear they will engage in illicit relationships; the internet is out of the question. Illiterate people — almost everyone over 40 — dismiss the internet as not intended for them.

Indian commuters are coping with their terrible commutes by watching Netflix

netflix-promo-image-e1488908453783

Excerpt from this article:

Netflix’s subscribers are setting their own “primetime” streaming hours around the world.

Globally, streaming on the web-video service peaks around 9pm on weekdays, according to data provided by Netflix—the US included. Keeping in line with Americans’ viewing habits in the 90-year history of television, that’s also when most viewers tune in to traditional TV, Nielsen data shows.

But, in India, Netflix streaming peaks at 5pm, the earliest primetime in the world. It’s not unusual for workers in India to spend one to three hours commuting each way by bus, train, or car, which explains the heavy viewing during those hours. Mobile video, which accounts for 60% of mobile data traffic, is also on the rise the country, so viewers can stream on the go. Subscribers there are also 82% more likely to watch Netflix at 9am than the rest of the world, Netflix found.