National

Remain accountable, responsible and vigilant: Centre to WhatsApp

NEW DELHI, JUL 4 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 7/5/2018 12:12:34 AM IST
 A day after Centre warned WhatsApp not to allow its the platform to be used for malafide activities, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday has once again asked owners of instant messaging app to work closely with the IT Ministry and remain “accountable, responsible and vigilant” towards ensuring that nobody misuses their platform.
“India is emerging as a big digital power. Whatsapp has the biggest spread in India across the world just like Facebook and Twitter. While we completely welcome them in India’s digital story and also making a commercial success of it, they must remain accountable, responsible and vigilant. It’s their responsibility to ensure that nobody can misuse their platform,” Prasad said here.
“We found that disinformation and provocative messages on WhatsApp played a major role in instigating violence. The use, misuse and abuse of the platform which leads to killing of innocent people is clearly not acceptable. WhatsApp had submitted the Ministry’s queries to its California office. Today we got a response from them ensuring that new features like the administrator of group controlling the messages can be useful in controlling the spread of rumours,” he added.
WhatsApp to take steps to curb misinformation
Amid a spate of lynchings purportedly triggered by messages on its platform, WhatsApp on Wednesday said it is “horrified” by the “terrible acts of violence”, and outlined steps being taken by the company to curb abuse of the messaging platform.
In its response to the IT Ministry’s missive, WhatsApp has said false news, misinformation and spread of hoaxes are issues that need to be dealt with collectively, by government, civil society and technology companies working together.
 “WhatsApp cares deeply about people’s safety, which is why we designed our app with security in mind...,” it said.
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.
In its detailed response sent to the IT Ministry, a copy of which has been seen by PTI, WhatsApp has listed out the various measures being undertaken by the platform to curb spread of false news and misinformation. These include product controls, digital literacy, fact checking advocacy and proactive actions to tackle abuse.
“We also respond to valid law enforcement requests to help them investigate crimes. And soon, we will start an engagement program with law enforcement officials around India so they are familiar with our approach and how we can be helpful,” it said.
WhatsApp said it is keen to share “best practices” on how the platform can be used by local police as a resource for their community.
The government’s warning to WhatsApp came in the wake of a spate of incidents involving lynching of innocent people because of certain “fake and motivated” messages purportedly circulated on the widely used messaging app.
Last week, five people were lynched in Dhule district in Maharashtra on suspicion of them being part of a gang of child-lifters. In a similar incident in Tripura recently, two people were lynched and six others thrashed. Assam, too, witnessed a case of lynching last month on similar ground.

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