Reporting fake news - here's what the IT Minister and WhatsApp CEO discussed


Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad and WhatsApp CEO Chris Deniels met to discuss fake news, reporting mechanisms and how the platform can be used constructively.

Ravishankar Prasad with Chris Deniels

Over the past few weeks, WhatsApp has been in the news in India, its largest user base. Responding to the Indian government’s concerns surrounding fake news, the messaging service had rolled out a ‘forwarded label’ feature. It is aimed at curbing the spread of rumours and malicious propaganda on WhatsApp that resulted in a spate of mob lynchings across the country.

To address these concerns, Chris Deniels, CEO of WhatsApp, met with Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad in Delhi on Tuesday.

The minister is said to have suggested that WhatsApp appoint a grievance officer in India, set up a corporate entity here to ensure compliance with Indian laws, work with law enforcement agencies, and undertake public awareness campaigns to prevent misuse of #Whatsapp.

“The government spoke about ways in which fake news could be reported. While the content is encrypted and safe, the minister urged WhatsApp to look into a reporting mechanism, especially for messages that reach unprecedented virality,” said an official.

Chris assured the Government of India that WhatsApp would comply with all these requests and take steps to ensure the app is not misused for any criminal activity. He also shared that WhatsApp would undertake a public awareness campaign to educate people about the constructive use of the platform.

Steps are already being taken to prevent fake news from spreading quickly. The forwarded label, which sits on top of sent/received messages, rolled out for both Android and iOS users, will be available with the latest app upgrade. It will help users distinguish between original content and those being circulated on the WhatsApp network.

The Facebook-owned messaging service, which has over 1.5 billion daily users, is planning to launch the feature across the world. So far, a dozen killings in India have been attributed to fake news on WhatsApp.


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