‘Must Have a Grievance Officer in India’: IT Min to WhatsApp CEO

WhatsApp needs to set up a local entity and find tech solutions to trace the origin of fake messages, said Union IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad on 21 August, after his meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Prasad said, “There are also very sinister developments that provokes crime like lynching, revenge porn, and you must find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal violation of Indian laws.”

He said he had made three suggestions to tackle the problems posed by WhatsApp:

  1. WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India.
  2. WhatsApp must be in proper compliance with Indian laws. We won't appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America.
  3. WhatsApp has become an important component of India's digital storage and must have a proper corporate entity located in India.

Daniels, who is on a India visit, met Prasad in an attempt to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform, which have led to horrific crimes like lynching.

Why is WhatsApp in the Eye of the Storm?

Over the past few months, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has sent out two notices to the Facebook-owned company, directing it to take urgent measures to curb false information and rumours from being circulated on the messaging platform.

The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find the originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumours, and ensure legal consequences.

In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India head, as part of its steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.

Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving "easy tips" to spot fake news.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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