Govt asks WhatsApp to set up office locally, find solution to trace origin of fake messages

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The government seems to be extremely serious when it comes to regulating the operational method of International technology platforms. Besides, it has become more determined to stop the dissemination of fake news through India’s most popular chat platform WhatsApp.

It has directed Facebook-owned chat platform to set up an office locally and find a tech solution to trace the origin of fake messages on its platform.

IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the media about the development after a meeting with WhatsApp chief executive officer Chris Daniels.

The minister asked the platform to set up a corporate entity in India, appoint a grievance officer and find a technical solution to trace the origin of fake messages on its platform. He also acknowledged the role of the messaging app in India’s digital story, but also added there are needs to find solutions to deal with other ‘sinister developments’.

WhatsApp could face abetment charges if no action was taken, he added.

To fight the battle against the rising menace of fake information, the Central government has sent two notices to WhatsApp. 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.

The Facebook-owned chat platform has submitted its response against the notices issued by the IT ministry, but the government was not satisfied with it.

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.

It 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.

The development was first reported by Mint.

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