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WhatsApp Wrote To IT Ministry That It Is Horrified By Acts Of Violence

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device.
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Taking cognisance of the Indian government’s concerns over the misuse of its platform for repeated circulation of provocative content, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Wednesday wrote to the IT Ministry, saying the company is horrified by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry on Tuesday asked WhatsApp to take immediate action and ensure that the platform is not used for such malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours and provocation circulated on the mobile messaging platform.

“Thank you for your letter dated July 2. Like the Government of India, we’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised. We believe this is a challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together,” WhatsApp said in the reply to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India, listed several measures it is taking or has already put in action to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform.

“We have been testing a new label in India that highlights when a message has been forwarded versus composed by the sender.

“This could serve as an important signal for recipients to think twice before forwarding messages because it lets a user know if content they received was written by the person they know or a potential rumor from someone else. We plan to launch this new feature soon,” the company informed.

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

In Mid-May, said WhatsApp, it added new protections to prevent people from adding others back into groups which they had left — a form of misuse they thought it is important to correct.

WhatsApp Logo
WhatsApp Logo. Image source: Pixabay

“Last week, we launched a new setting that enables administrators to decide who gets to send messages within individual groups. This will help reduce the spread of unwanted messages into important group conversations – as well as the forwarding of hoaxes and other content,” the popular messaging platform noted.

WhatsApp has also announced a new project to work with leading academic experts in India to learn more about the spread of misinformation.

“The fact-checking organisation Boom Live is available on WhatsApp and has published some reports on the source of the rumours that have contributed to the recent violence,” the company said.

While WhatsApp messages can be highly viral, the way people use the app is by nature still very private.

“Many people (nearly 25 per cent in India) are not in a group; the majority of groups continue to be small (less than 10 people); and nine in 10 messages are still sent from just one person to another,” WhatsApp informed.

The company also asked to Indian government to talk further about the actions it is taking and its plans going forward.

“With the right action we can help improve everyone’s safety by ensuring communities are better equipped to deal with malicious hoaxes and false information — while still enabling people to communicate reliably and privately across India,” it noted.

Also read: WhatsApp Copies Telegram to Add One-way ‘Broadcast’ Mode to Group Chats

WhatsApp also announced to soon start an engagement programme with the law enforcement officials across the country so “they are familiar with our approach and how we can be helpful”. (IANS)

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New Australia Bill Gives Police Power to Spy on WhatsApp Messages

The spying powers are limited to only "serious offences" such as preventing terrorism and tackling organised crime in Australia, dailymail.co.uk reported

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WhatsApp
New Australia bill gives police power to spy on WhatsApp messages.

Australia is mulling a strict law that gives enforcement agencies power to track messages on platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that offer end-to-end encryption and also to force users to open their smartphones when demanded, a media report said.

The controversial encryption bill comes at a time amid allegations of encrypted platforms facilitating spread of rumours, hate speech and even criminal activities like child trafficking and drugs businesses.

In countries like India messages circulated in WhatsApp have been linked to several lynching cases, forcing the government to ask platform to take suitable preventive action.

But the new Australia bill also raises privacy concerns as under the proposed legislation, the Australian government agencies could compel companies to build spyware.

The proposed laws could force companies to remove electronic protections, assist government agencies in accessing material from a suspect’s device, and in getting technical information such as design specifications to help in an investigation, News.com.au reported on Wednesday.

whatsapp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Critics have slammed the bill for being broad in scope, vague and potentially damaging to the security of the global digital economy, the report said, adding that a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has been scrutinising the bill.

The laws will help security agencies nab terrorists, child sex offenders and other serious criminals, Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter was quoted as saying.

Also Read- Rahul Gandhi Accuses Narendra Modi of Questioning Patel’s Vision

About 95 per cent of people currently being surveilled by security agencies are using encrypted messages, he added.

The spying powers are limited to only “serious offences” such as preventing terrorism and tackling organised crime in Australia, dailymail.co.uk reported. (IANS)