Wednesday, 25 July 2018 07:12

India wants WhatsApp encryption broken to trace 'fake news' Featured

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The Indian Government has indicated to Facebook that it will have to introduce "traceability and accountability", in order to ensure that provocative messages sent on WhatsApp can be traced to their source, or face legal action.

The statement, by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, comes in the wake of a number of deaths which are said to have been caused by the spreading of rumours on WhatsApp.

It is in effect an order to the social media giant that it will have to break encryption on the platform when it is deemed necessary by Indian authorities.

"...WhatsApp has been requested today to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labelling forwards and identifying fake news," the statement said. "It has been conveyed to them in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response."

Earlier this month, the ministry said many innocent people had been lynched as a result of messages circulating on WhatsApp.

Last week, WhatsApp said it would roll out software changes to make it harder for messages to be forwarded.

The ministry said that after WhatsApp had announced this change, an incident in Bidar in the south Indian state of Karnataka, had led to the death of a software engineer following rumours on WhatsApp about child abductors.

"It is regretted that the enormity of the challenge and the rampant abuse happening in the country leading to repeated commissioning of crimes pursuant to rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp.

"Reports in the media resonate the general sentiment that there is much more that needs to be done by WhatsApp. There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative/inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies.

"When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action," the ministry statement warned.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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