(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Opinion | Tracing forwards

To spot rumour mongers, the government has reportedly asked the social media platform to keep 'digital fingerprints' of every message

WhatsApp messages are encrypted end-to-end. Even the company can’t read them. So it claims. But to spot rumour mongers, the government has reportedly asked the social media platform to keep “digital fingerprints" of every message so that any forward can be traced back to its origin by the authorities, if need be. This may be technically possible, but it would place an undue burden on the service and infringe our privacy in the bargain. It would put WhatsApp users off, and if a hush descends on it, the baby of online free speech could get thrown out with the bathwater of fake news and other filth. Every chat, after all, serves as the equivalent of a free-wheeling conversation. It allows us to express thoughts without fear. It makes space for spontaneity. When this is compromised by identity tagging, we watch our words, tone down our voices, and even go silent.

Whether WhatsApp will risk losing its edge, its assurance of privacy, remains unclear. As for violence-sparking forwards, let’s try social solutions to the menace. Maybe WhatsApp can run a campaign to make users more discerning in their choice of what to believe and what sources of information to trust.

Close