Demanding greater accountability from social media platforms like WhatsApp in the wake of recent mob violence across the country, fuelled by fake posts, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said finding technological solutions to identify mass-circulation of messages on a particular issue in a particular area cannot be “rocket science”.
“If in any state, any part, on a particular subject, if there is a movement of large volumes of messages on WhatsApp, it is not rocket science that can’t be discovered by application of technology,” Prasad said on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.
He underlined that social media companies like WhatsApp, which are reaping commercial gains from the Indian market, have to remain accountable and vigilant to prevent abuse of their platforms for the spread of dangerous and provocative messages.
The Facebook-owned firm has found itself in a pickle after a series of lynching incidents purportedly triggered by provocative messages circulating on its platform. Recently, five people were lynched by villagers in Dhule district of Maharashtra on the suspicion that they were child-lifters.
On Tuesday, the government gave a clarion call to the popular messaging app asking it to take immediate measures to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages”. Expressing “deep disapproval”, the government called for “necessary remedial measures” and “immediate action” to stem the flow of misinformation.
In response, WhatsApp said it is “horrified” by the “terrible acts of violence” and has outlined steps being taken by the company to curb abuse of its platform.
It also highlighted that fake news, misinformation, and hoaxes can be checked by the government, civil society and technology companies working together. Prasad also asked WhatsApp to work in a coordinated manner with the country’s IT Department, Home Ministry and the police.
With PTI inputs