Monday, 21 January, 2019

India asks WhatsApp to curb fake news following spate of lynchings

Maharashtra 12 arrested for lynching five people over child lifting rumours on social media India asks WhatsApp to curb fake news following spate of lynchings
Melinda Barton | 04 July, 2018, 18:10

In its response, WhatsApp said it was "horrified by these awful acts of violence". This comes after the Ministry of Information Technology and Electronics raised concerns about the violent fallout of the fake messages on social media platforms. "The Government has also directed that spread of such messages should be immediately contained through the application of appropriate technology".

The government had on Tuesday issued a stern warning + to the social media platform asking it to take immediate measures to prevent the spread of "irresponsible and explosive messages".

"Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the (sic) WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken", a statement from the ministry said. The same misinformation has since resurfaced, with attacks reported in at least 11 states recently. "We don't want our services used to spread harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address", said a WhatsApp spokesperson.

The attacks have also spanned the sub-continent, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where a 55-year-old woman was killed in early May after giving candies to children, to northeastern Assam, where two men were killed after stopping to ask for directions in June, to western Gujarat, where a 45-year-old female beggar was killed last week. "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".

It also said that WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted to protect user's privacy and security which creates an inability for WhatsApp to see problematic content spreading through private conversations on its app.

WhatsApp said it planned to run a public safety campaign in India "given its importance" to the company, and mentioned efforts by police to use its platform to raise awareness about its misuse.

In mid-May, WhatsApp added protections to prevent users who leave a group from being added back.

The messaging service also announced plans of working with academia to understand the spread of misinformation in India.

It claimed that it responds to valid law enforcement requests to help them investigate crimes.

In addition, five people were beaten to death by a mob on Sunday in a fresh incident of lynching in India's western state of Maharashtra on suspicions that they were child abductors.