Fake WhatsApp message costs several lives to mob lynchings: ABP investigation

Fake WhatsApp message costs several lives to mob lynchings: ABP investigation

Fake WhatsApp message costs several lives to mob lynchings: ABP investigation

At least 20 people have been killed in mostly rural villages across India in lynchings instigated by false information distributed on WhatsApp.

In response to the government's statement that WhatsApp can not "evade accountability and responsibility" on a problem as grave as this, the tech firm has outlined measures it plans to take to get to the bottom of the fake news problem in India - its biggest market with over 200 million monthly users.

In the letter, Whatsapp has detailed the steps that it has taken and is taking to fight misinformation and said that its strategy involves giving people the controls and information they need to stay safe; and to work proactively to prevent misuse on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp has been pulled up by the Indian government over a spate of killings across the country sparked by rumours spread on the world's largest messaging app.

Taking cognisance of the Indian government's concerns over the misuse of its platform for repeated circulation of provocative content, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Wednesday wrote to the IT Ministry saying the company is horrified by awful acts of violence.

The Centre warning to WhatsApp has come after incidents of violence, mob lynching surfaced in the recent past.

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Last week, five people were lynched in the Maharashtra's Dhule district on suspicion of them being a part of a gang of child-lifters. "We believe that false news, misinformation, and the spread of hoaxes are issues best tackled collectively by the government, civil society, and technology companies working together", it wrote.

Further, it is also testing the labelling of forwarded messages.

Critics and public officials have said WhatsApp should do more to combat the spread of fake news. Last week, it also introduced a new setting which allowed only the administrators or owners of groups to send messages. To that end, it pointed to recently introduced group admin controls, a label for forwarded messages that's now in testing, and funding for research on the spread of misinformation in India.

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 cares deeply about the safety of our users".

WhatsApp in India can do everything it can, but at the end, it is the responsibility of the government to find a solution and stop the spread of fake messages. The company plans to start an engagement program with law enforcement officials in India and will increase its outreach in the coming months in advance of the country's general elections next year, officials have said.

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