Government Asks WhatsApp to Act Tough on Fake Messages
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It seems Facebook-owned WhatsApp can’t seem to stay away from controversies. The recent one is the lynching cases happening in India over WhatsApp-based rumors. In the latest occurrence, five people were lynched by a mob in Maharashtra on the suspicion of being child kidnappers. On similar grounds, Indian states Tripura, Assam, and Karnataka also faced a series of lynching incidents last month.
Warning Sign for WhatsApp:
Irked by the growing incidents, the Indian government has now asked the messaging platform to take strict action and ensure that the platform is not used for such malicious activities.
The government also pointed out that such a platform cannot evade accountability and responsibility especially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence.
“Instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently because of a large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumors and provocation are being circulated on WhatsApp. The unfortunate killing in many states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengals are deeply painful and regrettable, “said a statement issued by Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said.
The Ministry has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms.
The Bad Side of Technology:
The lynching incidents are a wakeup call for all the Indians who should be careful before believing or forwarding any WhatsApp message.
“Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken to prevent the proliferation of these fake and at times a motivated/sensational message. The Government has also directed that spread of such messages should be immediately contained through the application of appropriate technology,” the statement added.
A Good Justification?
However, WhatsApp has also sent a detailed response to the government’s strong warning. The company said in a statement, “WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users. Through this new project, we look forward to working with leading academic experts in India to learn more about how online platforms are used to spread misinformation. This local research will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education to help people spot false news and hoaxes.”
Now it would be interesting to see if WhatsApp will be successful in controlling fake and provocative content on its platform or it will face a similar ban in India like BlackBerry. In 2010, UAE and Saudi Arabia banned e-mail, web browsing and messaging features of BlackBerry smartphone in their countries because their law enforcement agencies could not decrypt messages between people of interest.