Messaging application WhatsApp on Tuesday said it had updated its service to label forwarded messages. On July 4, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had asked the messaging platform to initiate measures to prevent the spread of “explosive messages” and warned it against accountability and responsibility.

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.

Users need to update the app to enable the feature. “WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety,” a statement said. “We encourage you to think before sharing messages that were forwarded. As a reminder, you can report spam or block a contact in one tap and can always reach out to WhatsApp directly for help.”

WhatsApp blog
WhatsApp blog

WhatsApp had announced a new project to work with leading academic experts to learn more about the spread of misinformation. “The fact-checking organisation Boom Live is available on WhatsApp and has published some reports on the source of the rumours that have contributed to the recent violence,” the company said.

WhatsApp also announced that it would soon begin an engagement programme with law enforcement officials across India so “they are familiar with our approach and how we can be helpful”.

Violence triggered by rumours

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. 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 government to spread awareness against rumours of child-lifting, were killed in Tripura at the end of June.