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Government Pressure: WhatsApp to Limit Message Forwarding In INDIA

WhatsApp reacted: "In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we'll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

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The app is adding more features to group chats. Wikimedia commons
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 Hauled up second time by the government on its failure to check the spread of fake and provocative content on its platform amid growing lynching episodes, Whatsapp on Friday said it is launching a test to limit message forwarding to five chats that will apply to its users in India.

In its second notice on Thursday, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) took a tough stand, asking WhatsApp to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labelling forwards and identifying fake news.

“It has been conveyed to them in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response,” MeitY said in the notice.

WhatsApp reacted: “In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

The test, once comes to practice, will curtail WhatsApp’s services for over 200 million users in India. Globally, the company allows users to forward messages for up to 20 chats (either individuals or groups).

WhatsApp said that with new changes, which it will continue to evaluate, “will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app”.

“We are deeply committed to your safety and privacy which is why WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, and we’ll continue to improve our app with features like this one,” it added.

Whatsapp
“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement. Pixabay

In its first reply to the IT Ministry, WhatsApp said the company is “horrified” by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry had asked WhatsApp to ensure that the platform is not used for malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours being circulated on its platform.

The mobile messiging service listed several measures — including labelling Forwarding messages — in its first reply to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform but failed to meet the requirements from the IT Ministry.

Several people have lost their lives in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the first time admitted in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that fake news on social media has resulted in many mob lynching incidents in the country, saying the government has asked service providers to put a check on rumour mongering on social media.

Also Read-WhatsApp Begins Rolling Out ‘Restrict Group’ Feature For Admins

Expressing concern over the misuse of social media, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu also asked the government to evolve a national policy after discussing with all stakeholders including political parties to combat the menace.

The Supreme Court also issued 22 guidelines this week for the central and state governments to put an end to “horrendous acts” of vigilantism, lynching and mobocracy and directed them to work in tandem to take “preventive, remedial and punitive measures”. (IANS)

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EU Authorities Direct Tech Giants To Submit Reports Regarding ‘Fake News’

U.S. technology giants have committed millions of dollars, tens of thousands of employees and what they say are their best technical efforts into fighting fake news

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European Commissioner for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, left, and European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova participate in a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels. VOA

European Union (EU) authorities want internet companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter to file monthly reports on their progress eradicating “fake news” campaigns from their platforms ahead of elections next year.

Officials from the EU’s executive Commission unveiled the measures Wednesday as part of an action plan to counter disinformation in the lead up to the continent-wide vote in the spring.

The internet companies will have to submit their reports from January until May, when hundreds of millions of people in 27 EU member countries are scheduled to vote for 705 lawmakers in the bloc’s parliament.

The Commission singled out Russia.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, Sheryl Sandberg, EU
An advertisement in The New York Times is displayed on Sunday, March 25, 2018, in New York. Facebook’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers. VOA

“There is strong evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of disinformation in Europe,” said Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip.

Many EU member countries have taken action to combat disinformation, but now “we need to work together and coordinate our efforts,” he said.

Russian authorities have repeatedly rejected Western accusations of sponsoring disinformation campaigns and described them as part of Western efforts to smear the country.

Other measures include a new “rapid alert system,” beefing up budgets, and adding expert staff and data analysis tools.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and browser maker Mozilla are the companies that so far have signed up to a voluntary EU code of conduct on fighting disinformation.

Fake News, EU
We don’t remove content for being false: Facebook. Flickr Common

They’ll be expected to report on how they’re carrying out commitments they made under the code, including their work on making political advertising more transparent and how many fake and bot accounts they have identified and shut down. They’ll also provide updates on their cooperation with fact-checkers and academic researchers to uncover disinformation campaigns.

Google, which declined to comment, has tightened up requirements for political ads in the EU, including requiring information on who paid for them and for buyers to verify their identities. Facebook, which did not respond to a request for comment, did the same for political ads in Britain.

Also Read: WhatsApp Partners With DEF To Train Community Leaders in Order To Tackle Fake News

U.S. technology giants have committed millions of dollars, tens of thousands of employees and what they say are their best technical efforts into fighting fake news, propaganda and hate that has proliferated on their digital platforms.

“We need to see the internet platforms step up and make some real progress on their commitments,” said Julian King, the EU security commissioner. If there’s not enough headway, the Commission would consider other options including regulation, he said. (VOA)