WhatsApp informs government about steps taken to curb fake news
Following two notices from the Indian government demanding solutions to curb fake news, WhatsApp COO Matthew Idema and other top executives reportedly met IT Secretary Ajay Prakash on Monday to inform them about steps being taken. Fake forwards have become quite the nuisance in India, and several incidents of mob lynching have happened owing to fake information being circulated. Here are the details.
WhatsApp's statement on its engagement with stakeholders
"Over the past week, WhatsApp has met with a broad range of digital literacy experts, business leaders, and government representatives to discuss India's growing connected society," said a WhatsApp spokesperson, adding that the "challenge of misinformation requires action from government, civil society, and technology companies".
What WhatsApp is doing to curb the fake forwards nuisance
Over the last few weeks, WhatsApp has introduced a slew of, what it calls, new safety features, including group chat control features and a feature that labels forwarded messages so they can be distinguished from original ones. Additionally, WhatsApp is working to launch a digital literacy program to educate Indians about spotting fake news. It has also brought out awareness-raising advertisements in leading newspapers.
WhatsApp's assurances to the Election Commission
WhatsApp has assured the Election Commission that all steps will be taken ahead of polls to prevent misuse of its platform. Furthermore, WhatsApp has also promised to bring its fake news verification model, "Verificado", that has been used in markets like Brazil and Mexico.
The government has warned WhatsApp of legal consequences
Notably, the government has already slapped two notices on WhatsApp demanding steps beyond mere labelling of forwarded messages. It has also warned WhatsApp that mediums used to propagate potentially harmful rumors might be treated as 'abettors' to crime and can face legal action if they remain "mute spectators". While WhatsApp has responded to the first one, it is yet to respond to the other.