Trace fake messages, comply with Indian laws: Centre warns WhatsApp

WhatsApp has led to 'sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn,' said IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Trace fake messages, comply with Indian laws: Centre warns WhatsApp

NEW DELHI: Amid the fake news controversy and instances of mob lynching across the country, the Centre on Tuesday asked WhatsApp to set up a local entity with a grievance officer and find a technical solution to trace the origin of fake messages

Briefing media about the meeting with Whatsapp CEO Chris Daniels, Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “I had a very productive meeting. I complimented him for extraordinary technological awakening that WhatsApp has led in the country, for education, healthcare, relief in Kerala. These are positive developments.”

Prasad went on to add that the cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service provider has also contributed in provoking crimes.

“There are also very sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn, and you must find solutions to these challenges which are a downright criminal violation of Indian laws. I suggested three points. 

“One, WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India.

“Second, you (WhatsApp) must have a proper compliance of Indian laws. We won't appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America. 

“Third, WhatsApp has become an important component of India's digital storage and must have a proper corporate entity located in India,” said Prasad.

WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels is currently on a four-day visit to India.

Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met IT Secretary and other Indian government officials to outline various steps being taken by the company to tackle fake news in India. 

Over the past few months, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has sent out two notices to the Facebook-owned company directing it to take urgent measures to curb false information and rumours being spread on the messaging platform.

The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow.

In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.

Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving "easy tips" to spot fake news.

With agency inputs

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