WhatsApp has acknowledged that political parties in India have often attempted to misuse the platform and it has now warned the political parties to put a stop on it ahead of Lok Sabha elections, Reuters reports. WhatsApp will bar political parties from using the service if the platform is misused, according to Carl Woog, head of communications of WhatsApp. Woog addressed reports during a media briefing in New Delhi on Wednesday
“We have seen a number of parties attempt to use WhatsApp in ways that it was not intended, and our firm message to them is that using it in that way will result in bans of our service,” said Woog without naming the parties.
“We are trying to be very clear going into the election that there is abuse on WhatsApp. We are working very hard to identify it and prevent it as soon as possible,” he further added.
According to a news agency's report, WhatsApp has become a key campaign tool by workers of both the major political parties, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC). Amit Malviya, head of information technology cell for BJP, told Reuters he had not met WhatsApp representatives with regards to this. Divya Spandana, social media head of Congress party, said the party does not abuse WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is often criticised for its failure to prevent fake news and provocative content from spreading on its platform. The Indian government is also taking steps to ensure WhatsApp brings in accountability and facilitate the law enforcement when it comes identifying fake news. Last year, WhatsApp released a few TV commercials in an attempt to curb the fake news problem.
"We have had effort for the last several months where we have engaged with political parties to explain our firm view that WhatsApp is not a broadcast platform and is not a place to send messages at scale. And to explain to them that we will be banning accounts that engage in automated robotic behaviour and we do this regardless of the purpose of your account," Woog said.
Recently, A 21-year-old man was arrested for allegedly publishing fake news about the 2019 general elections schedule on his website from a WhatsApp group in January. A case was registered against the man on January 18 and an investigation was taken up, police said.
The government recently also proposed to amend IT rules, wherein social media, online platforms and messaging apps will be required to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content as well as follow stricter due diligence practices.
WhatsApp has more than 200 million users in India.
(With inputs from PTI)