It’s a bad time for WhatsApp in India. Now, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has accused WhatsApp of allowing circulation of irresponsible and explosive messages. The ministry has issued a stern warning to the Facebook-owned messaging app to stop the spread of such messages by applying appropriate technology.
According to reports, at least 31 people have been killed in the last year in 10 different Indian states by lynch mobs mobilised by rumours of child lifting that were spread over WhatsApp. Such incidents have been reported mostly from states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura, and West Bengal.
Caught in controversy, WhatsApp issued a statement in this regard. A WhatsApp spokesperson said: “ The company cares deeply about people’s safety and their ability to freely communicate. We don’t want our services to be used for spreading harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address.”
The spokesperson added that the company would boost its efforts to help curb false news.
The development comes at a time when WhatsApp is facing data security issues on account of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Also, it is stuck between different government agencies, awaiting the final approval for rolling out its payment service, WhatsApp Pay, in India.
Warning To WhatsApp: What’s The Problem?
A statement released by the MeitY on Tuesday (July 3) revealed that instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed in recent times and have been triggered by a large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation being circulated on WhatsApp.
The statement added that there have been repeated cases of violence, provoked by posts circulated on popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, where passers-by have been targeted for no fault of theirs.
The statement, as cited in an ET report, said: “While the law and order machinery is taking steps to apprehend the culprits, the abuse of platform like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern. 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 the proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/sensational messages. It has also been directed that spread of such messages should be immediately contained through the application of appropriate technology.”
The government letter further added that the messaging app cannot “evade accountability and responsibility, especially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence.”
The ministry has demanded immediate action from WhatsApp to stop such messages and to ensure that its platform will not be used for such malicious activities.