It’s unfortunate to hear that social media platforms that were meant to “connect” people are becoming hotbeds of fake news with harrowing consequences.
Fake news regarding child kidnappings, sexual predators, and thieves spreads like fire on social networking apps. And the Facebook-owned WhatsApp is the most prominent in it. All of this has led to lynchings and killing of close to 30 innocent lives in India for past two months.
On Tuesday, India’s electronics and IT ministry issued a statement in which it conveyed “deep disapproval” of such incidents to the senior management of WhatsApp. The statement stated WhatsApp couldn’t “evade accountability and responsibility.”
The government has ordered WhatsApp to contain the spread of such “irresponsible and explosive messages” through the use of appropriate technology.
WhatsApp had acknowledged the chilling issue in a letter sent to the government on Wednesday and said it’s working on changes to fight fake news and hoaxes on its platforms.
In the wake of rising fake news, the company would roll out some labels to help people distinguish between forwarded messages and the ones sent by their contacts. WhatsApp also said that it’s working with Indian researchers to have a better understanding of the problem.
WhatsApp said in the letter that the best way to tackle false news, misinformation, hoaxes is by a collective effort between the government, civil society, and tech companies.
There is no way WhatsApp could be careless about the issue as around 200 million of its active users are living in India. It also has plans to run awareness campaigns in the country.
Is WhatsApp alone at fault?
Due to its userbase, it’s not surprising to see WhatsApp being singled out by the government. But besides blaming some tech company which supposedly can’t read people’s conversations due to their end-to-end encryption, doesn’t the government has its own share of responsibility.
It’s concerning to see how easy it has become to influence people in a country with a population of around 1.3 billion.
One of the big reasons is that technology has arrived too fast in the hands of Indian citizens, without the knowledge required to use it. And that should include not hurting other people. Sadly, the government hasn’t been able to find ways to raise awareness among people. Hopefully, it does before more people lose their lives.