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After Spate of Lynchings, Govt Pulls Up WhatsApp, Asks It to Control Spread of Rumours

A statement released by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) on Tuesday said that the Facebook-owned company could not escape “responsibility and accountability”.

News18.com

Updated:July 4, 2018, 7:52 AM IST
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After Spate of Lynchings, Govt Pulls Up WhatsApp, Asks It to Control Spread of Rumours
A man holds a banner during a protest against a spate of violent lynching attacks across the country. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
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New Delhi: The government on Tuesday asked WhatsApp to take immediate measures to curb the dissemination of “irresponsible and explosive messages” through its service. The directive comes in the wake of a string of lynching incidents that have largely been triggered by rumours circulated on the messaging application.

A statement released by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) on Tuesday said that the Facebook-owned company could not escape “responsibility and accountability”.

The statement, which expressed concern about the rampant spread of rumours, also pulled up the company for inaction.

“MEITY has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms. 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 proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/ sensational messages," the statement said.

The Home Ministry is meanwhile planning to take the help of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to check the circulation of false information and fake videos about "child-lifters" that have led to incidents of violence, including lynching of over a dozen people, officials said on Tuesday.

Representatives of the social media platforms will be called for a meeting to be convened by the Home Ministry.

The recent incidents of lynching of people on the suspicion that they were child-lifters had alarmed everyone and the issue would be discussed at the meeting, a Home Ministry official said.

The IT ministry statement reiterated that the government has "conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such malafide activities".

It further noted that the “unfortunate killings” in many states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and west Bengals are “deeply painful and regretable.”

The government ordered the company to control the spread of misinformation through appropriate technology while stating that the law and order machinery were taking appropriate steps to nab the culprits.

“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.”

"WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users. Through this new project, we look forward to working with leading academic experts in India to learn more about how online platforms are used to spread misinformation," a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI.

Recent months have witnessed numerous instances of lynchings by mobs triggered by the circulation of fake-news. The latest victims to fall prey to WhatsApp rumours were five people in the Dhule district of Maharashtra. A mob lynched the men to death after rumours of them being ‘child-lifters’ started doing rounds on WhatsApp.

| Edited by: Padmaja Venkataraman
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