WhatsApp to fight fake news

23/07/2024 20mins
Shaibana S


The stand-off between the government of India and Facebook’s WhatsApp regarding the ‘traceability of fake messages’, seems to be warming up. It is learned that a group of executives from WhatsApp has met the officials of The Ministry of Electronics and IT to discuss the technical issues on traceability.

There have been incidents of lynching deaths due to the propagation of wrong information through WhatsApp, which has over 200 million users in India. The government of India has demanded the company to employ a system to trace the origin of these messages. The social media offering an easy platform to manipulate. The stemming of other illegal activities like terrorism and the upcoming election, where fake news will do its rounds is among the government's list of top priority concerns. WhatsApp has all along been maintaining that the traceability option would be a violation of its privacy policy, as it has been offering end to end encryptions to its clients.

But now the US-based company has started to relent, showing its first signs of consent to further a rather controversial topic. The officials from the company were attentive on a video conference discussion of the matter with the ministry officials but did not respond or offer any final solutions to the issue. It was reported that the company officials did not categorically deny or affirm to tackling the traceability issue.

The move of the company reaching out to the Government of India to seek a solution to the issue is seen as a strategic one, as it comes days ahead of Mr. Abhijit Bose taking over as the head of WhatsApp’s India operations in January 2019. He is the co-founder of payment device maker ‘Ezetap’ and is expected to play an important role in building WhatsApp’s first full country team outside California, to come up in Gurgaon. This is also viewed as part of setting up a local presence to comply with the government’s demand to address the traceability issue.

In its bid, to widen its business operations in one of the world’s biggest open market, WhatsApp has been seeking the government’s approval to launch its payment business in India. WhatsApp’s CEO Chris Daniels has written to the Reserve Bank asking permission for bringing out a full feature of its new product. But it has been caught in an ambush with concerns over authentication and data storage. And apart from WhatsApp all the other major players in the segment leveraging NPCI’s UPI network have already shared their timeline on when they will move their data locally to India, as quoted by sources from the Ministry of Electronic and IT.

According to a WhatsApp spokesperson the company keeps engaging in discussions with the government of India on a regular basis looking to reiterate its commitment to maintaining a private and a safe platform for communication between users. At the same time, they are also engaged in discussions to work out on how common goals can be achieved.

These are some of the outcomes of the video conference meeting that concluded recently between Ministry of Electronics and IT officials and WhatsApp. The meeting was initiated by the Director and associate general counsel of WhatsApp, Mr. Brian Hennes.

It turns out that India is not the only nation to crack down on fake news in social media. In the past week, Australia has also passed a bill that mandates companies like Facebook and WhatsApp to decrypt messages to curb fake news and terrorism. It also permits police and the Intelligence agency, access to the software of these messaging tools for surveillance.


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