New Delhi: The government on Tuesday directed WhatsApp to take urgent steps to prevent spread of "irresponsible and explosive messages" through its platform amid recent cases of lynching provoked by posts circulated on popular messaging apps.
Conveying its deep disapproval to the top brass of WhatsApp, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) stated that the Facebook-owned company "cannot evade accountability and responsibility", according to an official statement.
The warning to WhatsApp comes in the wake of a spate of incidents involving lynching of innocent people because of certain "fake and motivated" messages being circulated on the widely used messaging app.
Terming the "unfortunate killings" in states like Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura and West Bengal as "deeply painful and regrettable", the IT Ministry said the abuse of platforms like WhatsApp "for repeated circulation of such provocative content" is a matter of deep concern. MEITY 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," the statement said.
The government directed the company to immediately contain the spread of such messages through application of appropriate technology, even as law and order machinery takes steps to apprehend the culprits. Noting that miscreants were repeatedly circulating provocative messages triggering a spate of violence, it said the government has "conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such malafide activities".
Over the past few months, there have been a number of instances where mobs were instigated by fake WhatsApp messages. One such incident took place in a village in Dhule district of Maharashtra, where five people were lynched to death by villagers who reportedly suspected them of being child-lifters.
According to police, there had been rumours that a gang of child lifters was active in the area.