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WhatsApp woes in India escalate: Govt may send second notice


In the past few years, India has witnessed several cases of mob lynching and all the cases have observed one common pattern — false information was spread via Whatsapp and the platform was used to incite violence.

To fight the battle against the rising menace of fake information, the Central government sent out a stern warning to WhatsApp early this month. It asked the messaging platform to immediately stop the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation” through the application of appropriate technology.

According to media reports, the Facebook-owned chat platform has submitted its response against the notice issued by the IT ministry. However, the government is not satisfied with it and has set up an internal group of officers to examine the possibility of sending a second notice.

The ministry has tasked the group to identify specific technical measures which WhatsApp can be asked to implement.

The government has raised some apt questions and asked that if the chat platform is capable of locating specific groups and target audiences for advertisement purposes, it should be able to use similar methods to identify groups which are spreading rumours and inciting violence.

WhatsApp, however, claims that it has taken various measures to allow its group being used for the wrongful purpose. In May, it launched new protection measures to prevent people from adding others back into groups which they had left.

The company had also said it plans to run long-term public safety ad campaigns in India and that it will publish new educational materials around misinformation and conduct news literacy workshops.

They also launched a digital literacy campaign last week and the forward message indicator to curb fake news, WhatsApp is working with fact-checkers and the local police.

Amidst this, the Supreme Court recently took a strong note of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data, observing that it will be “like creating a surveillance state”.

In May, the Central government expressed its plan to deploy a “social media analytical tool” that would create digital profiles of citizens, ostensibly to gauge their opinions about official policies. The government wanted to use this information to target individuals with personalised campaigns to promote “positive” opinions and to neutralise “negative sentiments” about government schemes.

The development was first reported by ET.

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