The government on Thursday sent a second notice to Facebook-owned WhatsApp, saying more effective solutions were required to curb fake news beyond just labelling forwarded messages. In a sternly worded letter, the government further said messaging mediums used to propagate fake news would be liable to be treated as abettors and could also face legal action if they remain mute spectators.
WhatsApp, which has been struggling to control the spread of misinformation and fake news on its platform, last week enabled a feature which will indicate that a certain message has been forwarded and not created by the sender. However, the government seems not to be too impressed with the new update.
“When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” the IT Ministry said in a statement. Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that he would hold discussion with stakeholders, including political parties, to evolve a policy to deal with the misuse of social media.
The second notice to the Facebook-owned messaging platform comes after the Supreme Court on Tuesday condemned the “sweeping” incidents of lynching as “an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution” and asked Parliament to come up with a special law to deter such crimes.
After the first notice from the government in the first week of July, WhatsApp had responded with a list of features it was rolling out to control the spread of messages that had led to instances of mob lynchings across India over the past few months. Along with more control for group administrators, the platform had listed the labelling of messages as one of the key features that could help bring down spread of such posts.
An Indian Express investigation has found that in the last one year 27 people have died in 15 cases of lynchings by frenzied mobs blinded by viral rumours of child-kidnappers on the prowl across nine states — from Assam to Tamil Nadu.