The government has sent out a stern warning to WhatsApp asking the Facebook-owned messaging platform to immediately stop the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation” through the application of appropriate technology. This is as per a news report in the Economic Times.
In a statement, the ministry of electronics and IT said on Tuesday, instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently because of large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation are being circulated on WhatsApp. The unfortunate killing in many states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal are “deeply painful and regrettable.”
“While the law and order machinery is taking steps to apprehend the culprits, the abuse of platform like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern.”
It added that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology 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 government has also directed that spread of such messages should be immediately contained through the application of appropriate technology, it added.
According to reports, at least 31 people have been killed over the last one year in 10 different states by lynch mobs mobilised by rumours of child lifting spread over WhatsApp.
It was in Dhule (Maharashtra) on 1st of July, where five nomads who were thought to be child lifters were killed by a mob. On the same day two men were allegedly beaten up by a mob in Chennai, over rumours that they were trying to kidnap a child. On 8th June social media rumours falsely accusing two young Assamese men led to their lynching.
The government letter added that WhatsApp cannot “evade accountability and responsibility specially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence.”
It added that the government 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.
As a response to the ongoing controversy, a WhatsApp spokesperson has been quoted in the report saying that “WhatsApp cares deeply about people’s safety and their ability to freely communicate. We don’t want our services to be used for spreading harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address.”
In its statement, the spokesperson also said that the company will be stepping up its efforts to help people spot false news and hoaxes.