Govt asks WhatsApp to set up local entity, find solution to trace origin of fake messages

NEW DELHI, Aug 21:
In a stern message to WhatsApp, the government today said the messaging platform will need to set up a local corporate entity and find a technology solution to trace the origin of fake messages circulated through its platform.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, after meeting WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels, said the Facebook-owned messaging app has contributed significantly to India’s digital story but it needs to find solutions to deal with “sinister developments” like mob-lynching and revenge porn.
“I had a very productive meeting with Chris Daniels, the CEO of WhatsApp. I complimented him for the extraordinary technological awakening which WhatsApp has led in the entire country… But there are also very sinister developments, which are provoking crimes like mob lynching, revenge porn. You (Whatsapp) must find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal and violation of Indian laws,” he said.
Prasad said he has asked WhatsApp to set up a corporate entity in India, appoint a grievance officer and find a technical solution to tracing the origin of fake messages on its platform.
“… I flagged in particular, which I had said earlier also, it does not take rocket science to locate a message being circulated in hundreds and thousands… You must have a mechanism to find a solution,” he said, adding that WhatsApp could face abetment charges if no action is taken. He said the company has assured that it is working towards complying with these points. Daniels, however, declined to comment on the proceeds of the meeting.
“I am very happy that he (Daniels) said that they are working with law enforcement agencies… They will do a campaign to educate people in India (on spread of misinformation through social media),” Prasad said elaborating on the meeting.
On the issue of WhatsApp’s impending roll out of payments services, Prasad said the company assured the government that it will comply with the stipulated rules. “We said we have flagged attention to the RBI, namely financial data being in India. The RBI is working on the guidelines and he (Daniels) has assured me, whatever guidelines RBI comes out with, he will comply with that,” Prasad said. Daniels is visiting India this week and is likely to meet other government and business officials, as the company attempts to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching. WhatsApp has drawn severe criticism over the developments. The Indian government has also sent two notices to WhatsApp, directing it to take urgent measures to curb spread of false information and rumours through its platform.
The IT Ministry had also warned that WhatsApp cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow. (PTI)