Viber vows to fight fake news in run-up to May polls

Messaging app Viber—which gained ground in the Philippine market in 2021 as the locked-down populace increasingly relied on connectivity to work and run their daily lives—vowed to help combat fake news especially during the run-up to this year’s national elections.

“The team is working hard to make sure that Viber doesn’t become a platform where fake news or misleading information is possible,” David Tse, Rakuten Viber senior director for Asia-Pacific, said in a press statement on Monday.

“In terms of public content which you often see in our Communities, we are starting to increase moderation and resources in the country to ensure that we pick up information that is inappropriate and remove these in a timely manner.”

Through its Communities, Viber offers a more enhanced group chat than any regular Viber group chat. A Community, usually created by institutions or special interest groups, can enlist an unlimited amount of members whose mobile numbers are hidden from other members.

By policing these Communities, Viber has acknowledged how popular messaging apps could exercise greater responsibility in curbing the circulation of malicious and misleading content.

Viber will help combat fake news by teaming up with legitimate sources of information, Tse said.

Growth in calls

Citing the favorable impact of local partnerships, Viber recorded 57.37 percent growth in calls in 2021, while the use of messages expanded by 31 percent. Group chats also grew by 17 percent while group chat messages recorded a growth of 19 percent.

Over half of Viber’s users in the Philippines are part of the younger demographic, with 40 percent belonging to the 25 to 34 age group, followed by those from the 35 to 50 age group at 30 percent.

Filipinos below 24 years old have also started using the app more, accounting for 17 percent of its users, while the remaining 13 percent are 52 years old and up.

“Partnering with local brands and businesses has allowed Viber to strengthen its presence in the Philippines while improving our connection with them, responding to their needs, and presenting them with new features that help them enhance how they communicate and make their lives more efficient,” Tse said.

Collaboration

The app has also reported a significant growth in content collaborations across various categories like entertainment and sports. It has also teamed up with fintech companies, government agencies (particularly the health department) and telecommunication companies. For instance, Viber has partnered with local brands like GCash to help micro, small, medium enterprises as well as with entrepreneurs on Food PH bot through the Negosyo Serye webinars. It collaborated with LEB Holdings Inc. to help Cebuanos connect with local food sellers on Let’s Eat Bai Community.

It also has existing partnerships with market firm PGAG as well as with San-en NeoPhoenix to keep basketball fans updated on the latest sports news.

In June 2021, the app added a new feature, Viber Lens, which offers augmented reality (AR) to the in-app camera, allowing users to make their chats more fun and creative with virtual masks and filters. Since then, the app has recorded more than 7.3 million users who added Lenses to their photos, videos, or GIFs—and 56 percent of them are women.

The 30 to 40 age group formed the largest segment of Viber Lens users at 23 percent, followed closely by users in the 40 to 60 age group at 18 percent. Users under 17 years old represented 13 percent of Lens users.

All in one

“Viber is truly becoming an all-in-one app. It is not only a platform for users to express themselves, but it has also enabled them to transact and be entertained at the same time,” Tse explained. “What matters to us most is the user journey and how relevant we are to their daily lives. Our users remain and will always be at the forefront of our developments.”

Given Viber’s performance in 2021, Tse is optimistic that Viber will be able to move into 2022 in a position of strength. Even when restrictions are lifted, he said the pandemic had already shown people how messaging apps like Viber could unlock efficiencies—like cutting business travel costs and allowing educators to maximize online chats.

“As we continue to deal with our current reality, online communication will continue to strive, become more efficient, and change how people communicate,” Tse said. “And these new realizations and habits will definitely influence our plans and impact our performance in 2022.” INQ

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