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Indian govt asks WhatsApp to trace messages with fingerprints

To curb fake news and fight misinformation menace, the Indian government has asked Facebook-owned messaging app Whatsapp to digitally fingerprint each message sent on its platform.

The govt wants the messaging app to trace the origin of the message without breaking encryption, said two government officials to ET.  According to the anonymous official quoted in the report, the presence of fake or problematic messages need to be sorted out and WhatsApp should help us trace the sender

In the last couple of years, WhatsApp messages in the form of misinformation led to many incidents of lynching. And govt does not want the messaging app to take the matter lightly.

This technically possible and WhatsApp have to find a way around it, insisted officials.

Last year in December, draft amendments to intermediary guidelines of the IT Act asked internet platforms to ensure traceability of the origin of all content shared by them. Final amendment in this regard is still awaited.

Officials further said that anonymity can not continue for long, internet platforms have to take responsibility. Though, they said the request of traceability would be in a selected number of cases.

This is not the first time that the government has asked to take such measures.

Last year, to fight the battle against the rising menace of fake information, the government has sent two notices asking 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 had submitted its response against the notices issued by the IT ministry, but the government was not satisfied with it.

The government said that if WhatsApp 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, which has over 200  million plus users in India, claimed to take various measures last year to not allow its group being used for the wrongful purpose. However, it has categorically denied traceability through end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp is yet to respond to the development.

However, industry observers said the move might put peoples privacy on stake and could be used as a tool to snoop on them.

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