Indian authorities ask WhatsApp to stop fake news to end lynching
India’s Information Technology Ministry slams messaging service for lax control over content. In recent weeks, 25 people have been killed for allegedly kidnapping children. For journalist, lynching is linked to rising nationalism.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After several public lynching of innocent people triggered by fake news, India’s Information Technology (IT) Ministry has asked WhatsApp to closely monitor the spread of false information.
This comes after several incidents have resulted in the death of 25 people accused without evidence of kidnapping of minors, theft and sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, 23 people have been arrested for their involvement in the latest lynching of five people from a nomadic community in the western state of Maharashtra.
Before that 65 people were arrested on various charges for killing two tourists in Assam.
In a statement released on Monday, the IT Ministry expressed the government’s "deep disapproval" for the way the famous messaging service manages the spread of "irresponsible and dangerous messages".
“The government has also conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace,” it added.
WhatsApp’s has more than 200 million users in India. In in recent months, false videos and fake stories about kidnappers operating in day time have put the messaging service in the spotlight.
In reality, some videos were from at least a year ago and were part of a campaign by an association based in Karachi (Pakistan) to raise awareness about child trafficking.
Following the statement by Indian authorities, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, responded.
Noting that it does not want its platform to be used for spreading misinformation, it said that the dissemination of false messages was a challenge that companies and society should address.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on the government’s statement.
Police complain that once fake news enter social media it is hard to stop its spread. For Mohammad Ali, a journalist who is studying the lynching phenomenon in India, the problem is the digital ignorance of users.
Most of the victims of lynching have been foreigners, strangers, and people who do not speak the local language.
In addition, the killings of the past months have a common thread, linked to rising nationalist sentiment in the country, Ali explained.
“The idea is to target anyone who seems different,” he said. This “is part of a discourse of nationalism and extreme polarisation the consumes anyone seen as the other.”