New Delhi: WhatsApp has incorporated a local entity in India and its operation will begin soon, information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday, citing Chris Daniels, vice-president of WhatsApp, following a meeting between the two. The move partially fulfils the demands of the Indian government to curb the spread of fake news.
WhatsApp India formed, to begin operations soon
This is Daniel’s second visit to India in the past two months. His last meeting with Prasad came in the wake of more than a dozen killings across India this year in mob lynchings fuelled by rumours circulating on WhatsApp.
“On the issue of traceability, I emphasized that when we talk of traceability, we don’t talk of decrypting messages,” said Prasad after the meeting.
“We insist rather on location and identification of the sender of WhatsApp messages when such messages lead to provocation of violence, heinous offences and other serious crimes,” he said.
Prasad said he has been assured by the WhatsApp team that they will look into the matter.
“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with government leaders, including minister Prasad who confirmed his support for encryption and the privacy of our users. WhatsApp is deeply committed to serving the people of India and working closely with civil society and government leaders to help address abuse on our platform. Our new head of WhatsApp India, who will be named by the end of the year, will build a local team that can serve our customers in India, as well as work with partners and government leaders, to help keep people safe,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson.
This is crucial as the Indian government and the social media giant are trying to reach common ground over the mechanism to ensure traceability of fake messages.
In his last meeting with Daniels, Prasad requested him to devise ways to trace the origins of fake messages, set up a local corporate entity and appoint a grievance officer to address complaints to curb the spread of deadly rumours.
The IT ministry earlier had written to WhatsApp twice, asking it to come out with effective solutions to bring in accountability and facilitate law enforcement. WhatsApp had earlier maintained that it was not possible to trace the origin of a message on its platform, given its privacy settings.
In August, the Facebook Inc.-owned messaging service had appointed a grievance officer for India, Komal Lahiri, who is based in the US. Prasad on Wednesday while seeking updates on measures to tackle fake news also suggested that the grievance officer should be located in India.
Prasad also advised that WhatsApp should work towards maintaining the sanity of the platform during the upcoming elections in India as large volumes of messages are circulated through the platform.
“…it is appropriate and desirable that the institutional integrity of this platform is maintained, so that abusers cannot abuse it. They (WhatsApp) have also assured that they will work with my department in preventing circulation of spam farms,” he said.