The last few months has seen a trend of mob rule, lynchings, assaults and murders in the rural areas of India fuelled by false accusations, rumours and “fake news” over WhatsApp. In many instances, single messages lead to 20 or even 30 murders.
Villagers, suspicious and fearful of strangers in their regions; label any new faces as “child-lifters” or thieves and spread mesages to locals targeting the passersby. The number of murders reached such a level that the Indian Govt asked WhatsApp to intervene to stop the messages:
“MEITY (The India IT Ministry) has taken serious note of these irresponsible messages and their circulation in such platforms. Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken to prevent proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/ sensational messages,”
WhatsApp has been forced to respond to the Indian Govt:
WhatsApp has responded to the Government of India’s letter to it on rumours spread via the messaging app by explaining its two-fold strategy to tackle the issue. “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,” says the letter addressed to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).