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As of February 2017, there were more than 200 million monthly active WhatsApp users in India. Photo: Bloomberg
As of February 2017, there were more than 200 million monthly active WhatsApp users in India. Photo: Bloomberg

Check spread of fake messages, govt tells WhatsApp

This comes against the backdrop of a spate of murders in the country over the last month, all connected to fake messages on social media, which have mainly spread through WhatsApp

New Delhi: The information technology (IT) ministry on Tuesday directed Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp to take appropriate measures to curtail the spread of fake and provocative messages through its platform.

This comes against the backdrop of a spate of murders in the country over the last month, all connected to fake messages on social media, which have mainly spread through WhatsApp.

Such incidents have been reported from several states such as Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal.

“Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of 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 IT ministry said on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the government is taking necessary steps to apprehend the culprits but the spread of such messages should be immediately contained through the application of appropriate technology.

It has also been pointed out that such platforms cannot evade accountability and responsibility especially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence, the statement added.

“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," said a WhatsApp spokesperson.

“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 added.

Last month, the IT ministry raised concerns related to the rollout of the WhatsApp Payments in India seeking clarity on whether the new UPI-based service conforms to RBI’s security and privacy rules.

As of February 2017, there were more than 200 million monthly active WhatsApp users in India. There are more than 1.5 billion users across the world.

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