The Ministry of Electronics and IT has asked senior management of messaging app WhatsApp to initiate measures to prevent the spread of “explosive messages”. The government’s move comes in the wake of incidents of lynchings reported in Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu based on rumours of child kidnappers being spread on social media.
The Centre conveyed its disapproval and said that platforms like WhatsApp “cannot evade accountability and responsibility” when miscreants “resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence”, according to a statement issued by the ministry.
“While the law and order machinery is taking steps to apprehend the culprits, the abuse of platform like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern,” the statement said.
An unidentified spokesperson of WhatsApp told The Economic Times that the company will be stepping up its efforts to help people spot false news.
In the most recent case, a mob killed five people suspecting them to be part of a gang of “child lifters” in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. Over the past month, several incidents of mob violence following rumours on social media have been reported across the country, leading to assaults and murders. On June 26, a mob beat to death a 40-year-old woman in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad on the suspicion that she was a kidnapper. Three people, including a man hired by the Tripura government to spread awareness against rumours of child-lifting, were killed in the state at the end of June