This Article is From Aug 21, 2018

Meeting Minister, WhatsApp Chief Promises Action To Plug Fake News

Meeting Minister, WhatsApp Chief Promises Action To Plug Fake News
New Delhi:

WhatsApp chief Chris Daniels -- who is on a five-day tour to India -- met Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today amid anger over fake messages that cost more than 20 lives over the last months. India, with its 200 million users, is WhatsApp's biggest market and the cases of mob killings -- ranging from Assam to Karnataka -- have been a huge headache for the company.

"We had a productive meeting. WhatsApp is being misused to create misinformation and the social media platform has assured prompt action," Mr Prasad told reporters after the meeting.

"There are very sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn, and you must find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal violation of Indian laws," Mr Prasad had told Mr Daniels.

Sources said during the meeting, the minister reiterated India's demands that the messaging platform appoint a grievances officer, open a corporate office in the country, ensure compliance with Indian laws, work with Indian law enforcement agencies and undertake public awareness campaign to prevent misuse of WhatsApp.

WhatsApp has assured the government that it would comply with all these requests.

Over the last few months, innocent bystanders have been beaten to death in several states by mobs driven by rumours regarding child kidnappers or organ harvesting rings. The fake videos and messages have mostly been spread on WhatsApp.

The government has demanded that WhatsApp address the issue and stop the spread of fake messages. It has sent two notices to the Facebook-owned company, directing it to take urgent measures.

The company is yet to figure out a way forward, though it has tweaked its system to mark forwarded messages as forwards. It also curbed the number of forwards allowed per day to five and gave "easy tips" to spot fake news in full-page newspaper advertisements.

It also offered 50,000 dollar research grants to social scientists to help it combat the spread of "misinformation".

Mr Prasad's Information and Technology department, however, wants WhatsApp to also track down the origin of such messages. It warned that in the absence of checks, it will treat the messaging platform as an abettor of rumours and take legal action.