India's demand for tracking origin of messages hits Whatsapp rejection roadblock

Published on: Aug 23, 2018 18:07 IST
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India's demand for tracking origin of messages hits Whatsapp rejection roadblock

WhatsApp has dismissed India's insistence for a solution to track the origin of messages on its platform, saying building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and affect privacy protection for users. Emphasising that people use its platform for all kinds of "sensitive conversations", it said the focus is on educating people about misinformation. The government has been insistent on this as it can help curb horrific crimes like mob-lynching emanating from fake news. "Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse. WhatsApp will not weaken the privacy protections we provide", a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI.

WhatsApp has been drawing flak over its use in spreading the fake news that has led to violence in a few cases. WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels had met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and after the meeting, Prasad told reporters of the government asking them to set up a local corporate entity and find a technology solution for fake news tracking as well as appointing of a grievance officer. He praised Whatsapp’s contribution towards the growth in India's but was also said it could face abetment charges if adequate action was not taken. Daniels had, on the other hand, kept mum.

With one eye on next year’s general elections, the government is trying for strictness in terms of the use of social media platforms for the spread of misinformation. India forms the largest market for WhatsApp with over 200 million users (out of the total 1.5 billion globally). The Indian government has served two notices to the company seeking details of actions it has taken to curb the menace.

In response, WhatsApp had informed that it is forming a local team, and has introduced new features that identify forwarded messages. It has also restricted the number of forwards that can be done at a time.

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