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IT Ministry May Issue Second Notice To WhatsApp On Fake News

IT Ministry May Issue Second Notice To WhatsApp On Fake News

• IT Ministry has set up an internal group of officers to consider sending a second notice to WhatsApp
• The IT Ministry wants the group to identify specific technical measures that WhatsApp can be asked to implement
• The government may delay the launch of WhatsApp Pay until the fake news issue is addressed

Even as messaging service WhatsApp is working out plans to launch its digital payments facility WhatsApp Pay in India, it has not been able to resolve its issues with the IT ministry. The IT ministry, which recently issued a notice to WhatsApp asking it to take measures to curb fake news on its platform, is mulling sending a second notice as it is not satisfied with its efforts in this regard.

According to recent reports, the government has now set up an internal group of officers to examine the possibility of sending a second notice to WhatsApp.

The IT ministry wants the group to identify specific technical measures that WhatsApp can be asked to implement to curb fake news. The group will also consult experts for this.

The government is said to believe that if WhatsApp can locate specific groups and target audiences for advertisement purposes, it should be able to use similar methods to identify groups where rumours and provocative messages are causing a stir.

At the same time, the government is reportedly in no hurry to give the go-ahead for WhatsApp Payments until it achieves satisfactory results on this front.

In its first notice, the government emphasised on the recent killings due to fake news and said 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.”

WhatsApp replied saying, “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.”

Following this, WhatsApp also took initiatives to address fake news, including a digital literacy campaign launched last week and the forwards label.

The reports added that the company is actively working on business products like WhatsApp Business and new features such as group calling, stickers, and the JioPhone app.

It is also working with fact-checkers and the local police.

With the Forwards label, WhatsApp believed that the extra context would make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow and enable users to determine if the sender wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else.

In its letter to the IT ministry, WhatsApp had said that it had launched new protection measures in mid-May to prevent people from adding others back on groups they had left.

Inc42 had earlier reported that Facebook was examining data privacy concerns of WhatsApp Pay, including how it would store and share user data in line with the RBI’s mandate of storing data in India.

With its 200 Mn users, WhatsApp’s troubles have been coming in the light of controversies caused by its parent company, Facebook, which landed in a major data breach following revelations that the data of 2.57 Mn Indians was compromised.

[The development was reported by ET.]