Now, 5 Lynched By Villagers In Maharashtra Over Child-Lifting Rumours

Geraldine Edwards
July 5, 2018

Shortly after the government ordered WhatsApp to curb the spread of "irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation" on its platform, the Facebook-owned messaging service has written a letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), stating it needs cooperation from government and civil society to fight the menace.

In yet another incident of mob rage, five persons were killed by villagers, in Maharashtra's Dhule, on suspicion of being child kidnappers on Sunday.

India's government says it asked WhatsApp to take "immediate action" to prevent it from being misused to spread rumors leading to lynchings.

Officials also said that the government is planning to take the help of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to check the circulation of false information and fake videos about "child-lifters" that have led to incidents of violence, including lynching of over a dozen people.

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WhatsApp has always been at the center of the fake news debate in India.

Meanwhile, the Centre has issued a warning to the instant messaging app "Whatsapp", in the wake of killings taking place across the country due to rumours that circulate via the app.

A mob in India's Maharashtra state lynched five men they suspected of being child kidnappers.

Five men have been lynched by a mob in India's western state of Maharashtra allegedly over rumours of child abduction spreading over WhatsApp.

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In its letter, Ministry emphasised that the messaging app can not "evade accountability and responsibility, especially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to spread of violence". Everyone uses it. But not everyone falls prey to the spread of fake news.

The company said it was working with Indian researchers to better understand the problem and had introduced changes it said would reduce the spread of unwanted messages. And it is testing a feature that would label "forwards". Also, administrators on WhatsApp groups will have the right to decide who gets to send messages within individual groups.

"As a starting point, we will soon publish new educational materials around misinformation and conduct our news literacy workshops", WhatsApp said.

The rumours were likely to have been spurred by WhatsApp messages that had gone viral in the village, he said.

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Internet policy experts say WhatsApp doesn't have legal accountability and can not be held liable for the way people use it. The company plans to start an engagement program with law enforcement officials in India and will increase its outreach in the coming months in advance of the country's general elections next year, officials have said.

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