WhatsApp has allegedly cast aside Indian government’s call to suggest a way out to trace the origin of messages on its platform. The messaging giant says crafting a software that traces the source of messages will be a violation of end-to-end encryption and user privacy.
Spokespersons in the IT Ministry informed PTI about the government’s demands to continue to explore solutions for tracking the original sender of nefarious and provocative messages resulting in crime and violence.
Additionally, the messaging giant has been asked to form a local corporate entity that within a defined timeframe will be a subject to Indian laws. After a spate of nefarious messages with false news spread on the platform, resulting in mob lynching and death of hundreds of people across the country, the government requested the Facebook-owned company to take some strict measures.
Stressing on the fact that people use its platforms for all kinds of “sensitive conversations”, WhatsApp said its focus is on enlightening people about misinformation.
A WhatsApp informant told PTI, “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.”
The source who is familiar with the ministry’s opinion on the matter informed that ministry is also seeking a concrete assurance of acquiescence with Indian laws from the establishment of grievance officer with the wide network as well as the company.
In the last few months, WhatsApp has got into the lion’s den over its use in spreading rumors through its platform that have even impelled incidents of mob-lynchings in various parts of the nation.
Chris Daniels, WhatsApp head met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad earlier this week. Post meeting, Mr. Prasad said, “The government has asked WhatsApp to set up a local corporate entity and find a technology solution to trace the origin of fake messages circulated through its platform as well as appoint a grievance officer.”
Although he acknowledged the vital role played by the Facebook-owned company in India’s digital growth, he was serious about WhatsApp facing abetment charges if it failed to tackle the issue of fake news circulating on its platform.
However, Mr. Daniels remained unavailable for the further comments on the chronicles after the meeting.
As the general elections are slated for next year in India, the government is determined to curb the circulation of fake news on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook.
With a base of over 200 million users of the over 1.5 billion global user bases, India is one of the largest marketplaces for WhatsApp.
Seeking details of actions, it has taken to curb the menace, the government has served two notices to WhatsApp. As a response to the government notices, WhatsApp informed that it is building a local team, with an Indian head and also has introduced new features letting its users identify forwarded messages.
Furthermore, it has also put restrictions on the number of forwards that can be done at a time.
Besides, the company is also taking the pain to run education and advocacy programme to help people spot any kind of misinformation.
WhatsApp top executives, including COO Matthew Idema, conducted a meeting last month with IT Secretary and other Indian government officials to draft various steps to be taken by the company on the issue.