August 21, 2018 / 8:44 AM / a month ago

WhatsApp to clamp down on "sinister" messages in India - IT minister

NEW DELHI, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Facebook-owned WhatsApp assured the Indian government on Tuesday that it would develop tools to combat the problem of fake messages, the country’s information technology minister said.

India has stepped up efforts to crack down on mass message forwards after it found that people were using platforms such as WhatsApp to stoke public anger. False messages circulated on WhatsApp have led to a series of mob beatings across the country this year.

WhatsApp chief executive officer Chris Daniels met India’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday, assuring the government of a solution.

Prasad told reporters he had asked WhatsApp to develop a detailed mechanism to trace the origin of any such “sinister” messages.

“It does not need rocket science to locate a message,” Prasad said after his meeting, adding that WhatsApp had said it was working with law enforcement agencies to develop its systems.

A Facebook spokeswoman in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users and one where it says people forward more messages, photographs and videos than any other country.

There are also concerns that supporters of political parties could use social media platforms such as WhatsApp to spread false messages in the run-up to India’s national elections in 2019.

Following calls from the government to stem the platform’s misuse, WhatsApp has moved to deter mass message forwards and launched an advertising campaign to educate consumers.

In July, WhatsApp said message forwards will be limited to five chats at a time, whether among individuals or groups, and said it will remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages. (Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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