This time WhatsApp has hit the news for quite a bold decision it had taken recently. This states of WhatsApp rejecting Indian government’s demand to provide it with a solution to track the origin of messages on its platform. The Facebook-owned social messaging platform added that creating a software to trace the origin of messages would be definitely against the idea of user privacy and end-to-end encryption. Sources in the IT Ministry added that the government has asked the instant messaging app to continue looking for ways to continue exploring solutions to track the original sender of provocative and nefarious messages that actually results in violence and crime. WhatsApp has also been asked to set up a local corporate entity that is subject to Indian laws within a defined time structure. However, these requests by the government arrived after a spate of messages with fake news spread on the platform which has resulted in the occurrence of a large number of deaths of people across the country.
Stressing on the fact that people use its platform for all kinds of “sensitive conversations”, the Facebook-owned company added that the focus is on educating people about misinformation.
For a long time now, the government has been stressing WhatsApp to find a technology solution to trace the origin of messages, a move which is believed to curb horrific crimes like mob-lynching emanating from fake news.
To this, a WhatsApp spokesperson added that “Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse. WhatsApp will not weaken the privacy protections we provide”.
A recent meeting between WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad earlier this week, lead to the fact that the government has asked WhatsApp to set up a local corporate entity, searching for a technology solution. This, in turn, would trace the origin of fake messages circulated through its platform as well as when appointed as a grievance officer.
He, of course, acknowledged the role played by the Facebook-owned company in India’s digital story, however, was still stern about the fact that WhatsApp could face abetment charges if it did not take action to tackle the issue of fake news being circulated on its platform.
The government has served two notices to WhatsApp, seeking details of actions it has taken to curb the menace. In response, WhatsApp had informed it would be appointing a local team, including having India’s head, thus introducing new features to let its users identify forwarded messages.
WhatsApp has, in fact, restricted the number of forwards that can be done at a time. Besides, the company is also running an advocacy and education programme to help people spot fake news.