In a big step towards tackling the spread of fake news on widely-used chat platform WhatsApp, Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday held a meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels.
In light of an increasing number of incidents of mob lynchings allegedly arising from fake information being shared rampantly, and as well as other condemnable uses of the platform, such as revenge porn, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his meeting with the WhatsApp CEO, made a number of recommendations that would see the chat platform elevating its operations in India in a way that it can take action, and be held accountable.
Ravi Shankar Prasad has recommended that the Facebook-owned chat platform appoint a grievance officer in India for quick redressal of problems. "If anyone comes across messages containing fake news or content that might cause disharmony, there should be a WhatsApp employee that will quickly attend to the issue," the IT Minister said.
Additionally, WhatsApp was also asked to comply with Indian laws while it's operating in the country, failing which, the minister said, the company could be held as an abettor.
Thirdly, WhatsApp was asked to open a functional corporate entity in the country for easier reach. "If a problem arises in India, the people should not have to redress it in America. It should be solved here"
In response, WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels assured that all the measures proposed by the Union Minister will be complied with. Daniel also stated that its officials were undergoing law enforcement training and that the company would undertake campaigns to educate people about fake news on the platform.
During the Monsoon session of the Parliament, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defined the term fake news in the house. Further commenting on the measures that his ministry had taken to curb the spread of fake news, Prasad had stated that the government had issued a strong notice against Facebook-owned chat platform WhatsApp, through which most of the information leading to the lynching incidents were allegedly spread.
In response to the Government's notice, WhatsApp had issued an update, making changes such as limiting the number of forwards to five, denoting forwarded messages, and had indicated future updates such as removing the forward button for photos and videos and incorporating a fact checker to check for fake news.