WhatsApp is going through a rough patch in India, thanks to all the mob-lynching news surrounding the platform. It’s now said that WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels is visiting India this week and is likely to meet IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as the company attempts to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching. According to sources close to PTI, Daniels will be in India for 4-5 days, starting tomorrow, and meet business and government officials during his visit. He is also likely to meet Prasad tomorrow, although this could not be independently confirmed with the company.
Emails sent to WhatsApp did not elicit any response, stated PTI. One of the persons aware of the proposed visit said that WhatsApp officials plan 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.
Government officials who confirmed that a meeting has indeed been sought said the ministry, on its part, will reiterate its demand of WhatsApp establishing a set-up in India and also addressing the issue of traceability of messages.
Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met IT Secretary and other Indian 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 have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has 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.
The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it would treat the messaging platform as an abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow.
In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India’s head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.
Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, a restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving “easy tips” to spot fake news.