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WhatsApp May Cease to Exist in India if New Regulations Kick in

WhatsApp said it was hiring more reviewers with competence in regional languages in India ahead of the Lok Sabha elections

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of WhatsApp in its current form, a top company executive said here on Wednesday.

With over 200 million monthly active users, India is WhatsApp’s biggest market in the world. Globally, the platform has over 1.5 billion users.

“Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s Head of Communications, told on the sidelines of a media workshop.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption by default which means only the sender and the recipient can see the messages in circulation ? not even WhatsApp. Without this feature, Woog explained, WhatsApp will be a completely new product.

“The proposed changes are going overboard and are not consistent with strong privacy protections that people around the world are seeking,” said Woog, who served as the Spokesperson for the Barack Obama administration in the US.

“Given the end-to-end encryption we have in place, the regulations will require us to re-artchitect our product,” he said, adding that in such a scenario, the messaging service would cease to exist in its current form.

Without denying the possibility of quitting the India market in case the new regulations come into force, Woog told : “It will not help to speculate what is to come. There is a process in place in India to discuss this issue”.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The end-to-end encryption feature makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign. But the proposed IT Ministry regulations require social media platforms to follow a due diligence process to prevent the use of their services for spreading misinformation and provoking violence.

Facing flak from the government over dozens of lynching incidents in the country last year which were linked to rumours spread on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service introduced several new measures including limiting the number of messages that a user can forward to five and appointing for the first time a country head for the organisation.

“We ban nearly two million suspicious accounts every month. While roughly 20 per cent of these accounts are banned at the time of registration, over 70 per cent of the spam accounts get banned without a recent user report,” Woog said.

“These efforts are particularly important during elections where certain groups may attempt to send messages at scale,” WhatsApp said.

The accounts which are flagged by users by taking advantage of an in-app “report” feature are reviewed by a team of human workers. When someone reports an account, the WhatsApp team can see the last few messages in the chat.

Also Read- Researchers Identify Gene To Prevent And Treat Alcoholism

WhatsApp said it was hiring more reviewers with competence in regional languages in India ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing one of the major demands from the government, WhatsApp said, “As part of establishing our operations in India, we have identified a Grievance Officer who can be contacted directly if a user has a concern about their WhatsApp experience and is unable to report it through other channels.” (IANS)

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Novel Coronavirus: Government Deploys Health Team on Nepal Border

Many Indian students studying in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak have been stuck there

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Coronavirus
The Coronavirus outbreak, which has so far caused 41 deaths in China, and caused the country to quarantine 16 cities, is causing comparisons to the 2003 spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which decreased the value of the global economy by $40 billion. VOA

In the wake of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Nepal, the Union Health Ministry has subsequently strengthened its vigil in the areas bordering Nepal.

The recent deployment of health team has taken place at Panitanki in West Bengal, entry point from Nepal, said the Health Ministry on Monday.

“Update on #ncov2020 – Subsequent to confirmed #coronarvirus case in #Nepal, vigil strengthened at Panitanki (West Bengal) entry point from Nepal,” the ministry tweeted.

Earlier on Sunday the ministry had informed that in response to confirmed case of the new virus in the neighbourhood country Nepal, India stepped up vigil in districts bordering Nepal. The health ministry said that teams of medical experts were also deployed at border outpost with Nepal at Jhulaghat and Jauljibi in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand.

Coronavirus
Southeast Asia’s proximity to China and dependence on that nation for a major share of its economy is raising concerns that the coronavirus outbreak  that started there will not only have health impacts but harm the region’s economies. VOA

In continuation of its efforts to stop the virus from entering in India and making the passengers aware, the ministry has also displayed signage advising the passengers for self reporting and other precautions, disseminated through advisories, at the Mumbai airport.

According to the health ministry, a total of 29,707 passengers from 137 flights have been screened. Fortunately, no case of coronavirus has been found till date.

Also Read: Patients May Suffer Invasive Treatments for Harmless Cancers: Researchers

According to the announcement made by Chinese health authorities on Monday, 2,744 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including 461 in critical condition and a total of 5,794 suspected cases have also been reported. The killer virus has caused 80 deaths in China, as per Chinese authorities.

Many Indian students studying in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak have been stuck there. The health ministry said it is working closely with the Ministry of External Affairs and is in touch with the students. (IANS)