WhatsApp 'horrified' over India lynchings, promises action

Image for representational purpose only

Image for representational purpose only

Terming the "unfortunate killings" in states like Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal as "deeply painful and regrettable", the IT Ministry said the abuse of platforms like WhatsApp "for repeated circulation of such provocative content" is a matter of deep concern.

India's ministry of electronics and information technology said in a statement late on Tuesday that the lynchings were tied to "irresponsible and explosive messages" circulated on WhatsApp.

"Thank you for your letter dated July 2".

The Indian Express, an English-language daily newspaper, quoted a WhatsApp spokesman as saying, "The situation is a public health problem which will require solutions from outside the company as well, including the government".

He further said, " WhatsApp has sent us a reply from California.

Soon, forwards on WhatsApp will be clearly differentiated from genuine messages and mass spam will be blocked as the world's most popular messenger begins a series of initiatives to check the spread of fake news.

"We have been testing a new label in India that highlights when a message has been forwarded versus composed by the sender".

The 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.

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The company also said it follows a two-pronged approach that includes giving people controls and information they need to stay safe, and working proactively to prevent misuse on WhatsApp. "This will help reduce the spread of unwanted messages into important group conversations - as well as the forwarding of hoaxes and other content", the American company said.

The Indian government is mulling a response to the rumors circulating on WhatsApp, which has some 200 million monthly users in India, making the country the app's largest market, according to the Washington Post.

Fact checking should be built into the interface of WhatsApp to avoid rumour-mongering, said Sunil Abraham, founder of the think tank Centre for Internet and Society.

More than 25 people have been killed in India in recent months after rumours were spread on smartphones about child kidnappers, thieves and sexual predators.

Officials elsewhere in India have also urged people not to believe messages linked to child abductions.

"With the right action we can help improve everyone´s safety".

It also plans to start a program to engage directly with Indian law enforcement officials, it said Wednesday.

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