The government has told Whatsapp that it could face a ban if it does not find a way to trace the origins of hoaxes and fake news. The most popular instant messaging platform is owned by Facebook and it refused the government’s request and told that it would violate privacy protocol. Ministry of Information Technology, led by Ravi Shankar Prasad, sent another, its third since July to ask the instant messaging company to find a solution to hoaxes and fake news being spread through the platform. Whatsapp has told the government that “even if the app maker was willing to compromise its end-to-end encryption, changing it would have adverse effects on the security of the entire system.”
“It’s a reasonable demand from us, and very much doable. The third letter will reiterate that WhatsApp is not meeting all our concerns. We are not asking them to look into the contents of the message, but if some message has been forwarded, say, 100 times and has caused some law and order problem, then they should be able to identify where it originated from,” said a government official. This time government has threatened the instant messaging app if it does not take necessary steps to meet the requirements. In recent times, most of the mob-lynching cases that have happened in India are due to rumors of child-lifting gangs operating in various parts of the country and most of these rumors were spread through WhatsApp. Increase in incidents of mob-lynching has resulted in huge protest from a particular section of society and media. The incidents were used to peddle their political agenda and not to educate the people regarding fake news and rumors. Such people wait for mob-lynching incidents to take place so that they can launch their vulture politics, and because of this attitude, fake news and rumor circulation is only increasing in India, especially via WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is the most used messaging app in India. It is also most used instant messaging app across the world except few countries like China which had developed their own version of called Wechat. If WhatsApp does not comply with government orders, govt. might ban it. This will give a huge fillip to domestic instant messaging apps like Kimbho of Patanjali and Hike of Airtel.
IT ministry is not satisfied with WhatsApp’s effort. It has asked the messaging app to come up with more effective solutions in order to ensure greater “accountability and facilitate enforcement of the law” if it wants to avoid an outright ban. The IT Ministry is right in its concerns that the new features introduced by WhatsApp are not enough to stop the circulation of fake news and rumor. It should introduce other features in India where a particular message can be reported and it should make a bigger team of moderation to address the complaints more seriously and adequately. In order to make the messaging app more user friendly, it needs to take some serious steps to curb the menace of fake news and rumor circulation.
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