In view of continuing incidents of mob lynching, the government on Thursday directed WhatsApp to immediately take steps to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages”.
The government made it clear that the social media platform cannot evade its responsibility in view of the fact that these lynchings were triggered by posts circulated on such popular messaging apps.
The government has also asked the WhatsApp to immediately contain the spread of such messages through application of technology, even as law and order machinery takes steps to apprehend the culprits.
Noting that miscreants were repeatedly circulating provocative messages triggering a spate of violence, the government today said it has “conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such malafide activities”.
Conveying its deep disapproval to the top brass of WhatsApp, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) stated that the Facebook-owned company “cannot evade accountability and responsibility”, according to the official statement.
When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI, “WhatsApp cares deeply about people’s safety and their ability to freely communicate”.
“We don’t want our services used to spread harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address. For example, we recently made a number of updates to our group chats and will be stepping up efforts to help people spot false news and hoaxes,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
India is the largest market for WhatsApp with over 200 million users.
In a separate statement today, WhatsApp said it would be instituting awards for research on spread of misinformation on its platform.
The government’s warning to WhatsApp comes in the wake of a spate of incidents involving lynching of innocent people because of certain “fake and motivated” messages being circulated on the widely used messaging app.
Last week, five people were lynched in Dhule district in Maharashtra on suspicion of them being part of of a gang of child-lifters. In a similar incident in Tripura recently, two people were lynched and six others thrashed. Assam, too, witnessed a case of lynching last month on similar ground.
Terming the “unfortunate killings” in states like Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal as “deeply painful and regrettable”, the ministry in its statement today said the abuse of platforms like WhatsApp “for repeated circulation of such provocative content” is a matter of deep concern.
“MEITY has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms.
“Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken to prevent proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/ sensational messages,” the statement said.
(With PTI inputs)