The government has asked the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp to comply with certain guidelines to minimise the spreading of fake news. In a meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the company has to find out solutions to the challenges that are downright criminal violation of Indian laws.
Prasad said the company will need to have a local grievance officer in India and a system to trace the origin of fake messages. After the meeting, the IT Minister appreciated WhatsApp for carrying out "extraordinary technological awakening", especially in education, healthcare, and in flood-ravaged Kerala.
He said apart from these positive developments, there are certain developments that are in total violation of Indian laws. "There are also very sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn. You must find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal violation of Indian laws," he said.
CEO of Whatsapp Chris Daniels met me today. I appreciated the role of Whatsapp in empowering people and also shared country's concerns about misuse of #Whatsapp and requested him to take suitable steps to address those concerns. pic.twitter.com/SciU23wX7O- Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 21, 2018
The minister suggested three major points that the company must work on to address such problems. "1- WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India. 2nd-you must have a proper compliance of Indian laws. We won't appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America. 3rd- WhatsApp has become an important component of India's digital storage & must have a proper corporate entity located in India," he said.
He also asked the Whtaspp CEO to work closely with law enforcement agencies in India and create public awareness campaign to prevent misuse of Whatsapp. "...I flagged in particular, which I had said earlier also, it does not take rocket science to locate a message being circulated in hundreds and thousands... you must have a mechanism to find a solution," he said, reported ANI, adding that Whatsapp could face abetment charges if no action is taken.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp has assured the government that it would soon take steps on all these counts. In the past three months, India has seen 39 incidents of lynching due to mass misinformation spread on WhatsApp. The government has also come under pressure to take steps to stop such incidents from happening. In July, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had also sent out a letter to the telecom companies, asking them to explore various possible options and confirm how social media networks like Instagram or Facebook or WhatsApp or Telegram, etc, can be blocked on the internet.
(Edited by Manoj Sharma)