Rumor Mongering

  • WhatsApp, in India, has decided to put a cap on the number of chats one can forward a message to in one go. Users will be allowed to forward messages to only five chats at once as against 20 for the rest of the world. - Rumor Mongering

  • WhatsApp noted that its users in India “forward more messages, photos, and videos, than any other country in the world”.
Govt Role in stoppings rumours:
  • The primary responsibility to fix this lies with law enforcement agencies. A mob takes the law into its hands if it believes that either law enforcement agencies are incapable/unwilling to help or that its crimes will go unpunished.
  • Law enforcement agencies shut down the Internet to prevent the forwarding of messages and possible riots. In 2017, according to data from the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), India had 70 Internet shutdowns.
  • An Internet shutdown is a suspension of the constitutional right to free speech; a disproportionate act of censorship of all speech in response to the actions of a few.
  • The data suggest that there are no shutdowns in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, while smaller towns bear the brunt of such actions. The lack of capacity of law enforcement agencies in smaller towns to deal with these situations is a worrying sign, especially in the run-up to elections
  • State governments need to build law enforcement capacity and ensure prosecution in case of mob violence. A new law covering lynchings will be ineffective if our criminal justice system is incapable of enforcing the law.
Good Idea: What WhatsApp should do?
  • Messages between individuals should remain private and not be those that can be forwarded.
  • However, if a message creator wants to enable the forward ability of that message, the chat should be treated as public, and attributed with a unique ID linked to the original creator. This will allow WhatsApp to shut down such a message across its network once it is reported and identify the creator when a court-directed request is made by law enforcement agencies.
  • It’s important to remember that incorrect or false information is not illegal and people could be mistaken. It is messages with incitement of violence that need to be addressed.
So, the government, law enforcement agencies, and WhatsApp, need to come together mob violence and lynching.

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