WhatsApp has provided assurances to the Indian government that it will develop tools to prevent the spread of misinformation that has led to violence within the country.
The company’s CEO Chris Daniels has met with Indian IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to alleviate concerns, reports Reuters. Prasad noted that he has instructed WhatsApp to introduce a mechanism that will allow the origin of “sinister” messages to be traced, saying: “it does not need rocket science to locate a message.”
While WhatsApp enjoys massive popularity in India with over 200 million users, the ease of forwarding messages via the service has led to rapid dissemination of fake news, fomenting public disorder and resulting in incidents of mob violence that in some cases have resulted in death. WhatsApp has noted that India forwards more content via its service than any other market.
Such incidents have prompted the Indian government to clamp down on messaging services that facilitate mass forwarding – particularly in the face of concerns that political parties and their supporters could use the service, along with other social media, to spread fake news ahead of 2019’s national elections.
With the government calling for WhatsApp to take responsibility for the abuse by its users, the service has implemented measures to discourage and in some cases prevent the forwarding of messages. Users can now only forward a single message to five group or individual chats, and the quick forward button has been removed. In addition, WhatsApp has introduced an awareness campaign to help users identify potentially fake news.