The Indian government has asked popular Android messaging app WhatsApp to find more effective solutions to check fake news from being circulated in public.
Here are the top 10 developments on the same:
1. On July 3, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had written to Whatsapp to take immediate steps to tackle the menace of misuse of their platform for circulating inflammatory messages that often lead to unfortunate incidents.
2. On the same day Whatsapp responded indicating their initiative to mark forwarded messages and to step up efforts to detect fake news.
3. Meanwhile, on July 15, a 32-year-old software engineer Mohammed Azam was lynched to death by a mob of about 200 people in Karnataka’s Bidar. This was preceded by viral circulation of rumours on Whatsapp about child lifters.
4. The MeitY was quick to respond and said it is regretted that the enormity of the challenge and the rampant abuse happening in the country leading to repeated commissioning of crimes pursuant to rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp.
5. The government said there is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative / inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies.
6. Holding WhatsApp responsible for failing to check the loopholes in the app, the Indian government said, when rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.
7. The ministry issued a statement saying, “If they (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”
8. On July 20, Whatsapp was requested to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labeling forwards and identifying fake news.
9. Later in the day, the ministry, in a statement, said: “It has been conveyed to them (WhatsApp) in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response.”
10. As per the data available till February, 2018, over 200 million people use WhatsApp in India.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.