Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said WhatsApp has assured the Indian government that it would develop tools to combat the problem of fake messages that cause crimes like mob lynchings.
Prasad had a 45-minute meeting with WhatsApp’s CEO Chris Daniels who is in India on a five-day visit and is expected to meet business and government officials, according to media reports.
Fake messages have taken a toll of more than 20 lives over the last few months. India, with its 200 million users, is WhatsApp’s biggest market and the cases of mob killings — ranging from Assam to Karnataka — have been a huge headache for the company.
Prasad told reporters he had asked WhatsApp to develop a detailed mechanism to trace the origin of any such “sinister” messages, reported Reuters.
“It does not need rocket science to locate a message,” he said, adding that WhatsApp had said it was working with law enforcement agencies to develop its systems.
In the meeting, Prasad told Daniels that the instant messaging firm must comply with Indian laws and set up a corporate presence in the country.
Prasad told Daniels to implement three measures. “You must have a grievance system in India and a whole system where people can reach you immediately. Secondly, you must have proper compliance with Indian laws. We will not appreciate a scenario where any problem that has risen is answered to only in America. Thirdly, WhatsApp having become an important component of India’s digital story must have a proper corporate entity located in India. He assured that the company will soon follow these. He said that we are working with law enforcement agencies to develop a system,” Prasad said he had told Daniels, while briefing reporters.
“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 said.
However, Prasad also said that there are “also very sinister developments that provokes crime like mob lynching”, or spread of pornography and the firm “must find solutions to these challenges which are a downright criminal violation of Indian laws”.
Daniels, who arrived in India on Tuesday, will meet business and government officials during his visit to discuss measures being undertaken to counter the issue of fake news on its platform as well as the impending launch of its payments services in the country, reported PTI.
Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met the IT Secretary and other 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 incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India, following which the government 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.
Subsequently, WhatsApp took steps curb mass message forwards and launched an advertising campaign to educate consumers.
In July, WhatsApp said message forwards will be limited to five chats at a time, whether among individuals or groups, and said it will remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.