Amid a spate of lynching and mob beating incidents, fuelled by “fake” posts circulated on WhatsApp, the government Tuesday issued a clarion call to the Facebook-owned firm to take urgent steps to contain the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages” through its platform.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) conveyed its deep disapproval to the top brass of WhatsApp and stated that WhatsApp “cannot evade accountability and responsibility”, according to an official statement.
Describing the “unfortunate killings” in states like Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal as “deeply painful and regrettable”, the IT Ministry stated that the abuse of platforms like WhatsApp “for repeated circulation of such provocative content” is a matter of deep concern.
“MEITY has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms. 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 proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/ sensational messages,” the statement said.
It said the government has “conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such malafide activities”.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of instances where mobs were instigated by fake WhatsApp messages. Recently, five people were lynched by villagers in Dhule district of Maharashtra on the suspicion that they were child-lifters.
The government warning comes on a day WhatsApp announced a competitive set of global awards to researchers interested in exploring these issues. The platform’s intention is to get a better understanding of the safety problems posed by rumours spread on its popular messaging platform.
After marking forwarded messages, setting up resources with the platform to flag rumours and limiting noisiness in conversations by giving more control to group admins, the latest move is aimed at educating people more about the topic of misinformation.
With PTI inputs