WhatsApp has informed Indian Government that it is building a local team. This step is taken to check fake news circulation. But it has not met the key demand of identifying message originators. WhatsApp is under fire over abuse of its platform for circulation of fake news.
The IT Ministry official said that WhatsApp has responded to the Government last notice, outlining initiatives being taken to curb fake news circulation. They included education and advocacy efforts too. WhatsApp Director and Associate General Counsel Brian Hennessy said –
“We actively work to block accounts that are trying to misuse WhatsApp. We are also increasing our investigations into spam operations and look forward to partnering with local authorities on this effort.”
WhatsApp spokesperson said –
“To support our users in India and continue our investment in the country, it’s our top priority to hire a local leader who can help us build a team on the ground. People rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks, and families.
The police also use WhatsApp to discuss investigations and report crimes. Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the private nature of WhatsApp and create the potential for serious misuse. Our focus is on improving WhatsApp and working closely with others in society to help keep people safe.”
WhatsApp believes that the challenge of mob violence requires government, civil society, and technology companies to work together. WhatsApp also said that – “It’s why we’ve already made significant product changes to help slow the spread of information and are working to educate people on how to spot fake news.”
Chief Operating Officer of WhatsApp Matt Idema traveled to India and met with representatives of IT ministry.
The Government expressed dissatisfaction over measures previously listed by WhatsApp for checking fake news that has triggered mob violence. Supreme Court asked Parliament to consider enacting a new law to effectively deal with incidents of mob lynching,
Supreme court said that “horrendous acts of mobocracy” can’t be allowed to become a new norm. Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also informed the Rajya Sabha that he will hold a discussion with stakeholders, including political parties to, evolve a policy to deal with the misuse of social media.
Over the last few weeks, WhatsApp introduced a new feature to let users identify forwarded messages.
But Government is dissatisfied with its efforts. Therefore, IT ministry has directed WhatsApp to bring more effective solutions to the table, to ensure greater “accountability and facilitate enforcement of the law” beyond the existing efforts towards labeling forwards and identifying fake news.