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WhatsApp has to follow Indian laws: IT minister warns CEO amid fake news row

By Deepika
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    New Delhi, Aug 21: In a stern message to Whatsapp, the government on Tuesday said the messaging platform will need to set up a local entity and find a tech solution to trace the origin of fake messages on its platform.

    Ravi Shankar Prasad

    IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, after meeting WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels, said the Facebook-owned messaging app has contributed significantly to India's digital story but it needs to find solutions to deal with "sinister developments" like mob lynching and revenge porn.

    According to the reports, Daniels will be in India for 4-5 days, starting today, and is scheduled to meet business and government officials during his visit.

    IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "I had a very productive meeting. I complimented him for extraordinary technological awakening that WhatsApp has led in the country, for education, healthcare, relief in Kerala. These are positive developments."

    He added, "There are also very sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn, and you must find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal violation of Indian laws.

    Govt's checklist for WhatsApp

    • WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India.
    • WhatsApp must have a proper compliance of Indian laws.
    • WhatsApp must have a proper corporate entity located in India.

    Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met IT Secretary and other Indian government officials to outline various steps being taken by the company to tackle fake news in India.

    Over the past few months, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has sent out two notices to the Facebook-owned company directing it to take urgent measures to curb false information and rumours being spread on the messaging platform.

    The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow.

    In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.

    Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving "easy tips" to spot fake news.

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