WhatsApp rejects India’s demand to track origin of message

• WhatsApp has rejected India’s demands for a solution to track the origin of messages on its platform, saying building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and affect privacy protection for users.

• Emphasizing that people use its platform for all kinds of “sensitive conversations”, the Facebook-owned company said the focus is on educating people about misinformation.

• The government has been pushing WhatsApp to find a technology solution to trace the origin of messages, a move it believes can help curb horrific crimes like mob-lynching emanating from fake news.

• Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse.

• Over the past few months, WhatsApp has drawn flak over its use in spreading the fake news through its platform that has even incited incidents of mob-lynching in various parts of the country.

• WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels had met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad earlier this week. After the meeting, Prasad told reporters that 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.

• With general elections slated to be held next year in India, the government is taking a stern view of the use of social media platform like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp for the spread of misinformation.

• India is the largest market for WhatsApp with a base of over 200 million users of the over 1.5 billion global user base.

• The Indian government has served two notices to WhatsApp seeking details of actions it has taken to curb the menace. In its response, WhatsApp had informed that it is building a local team, including having India’s head, and has introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages.

• WhatsApp has also restricted the number of forwards that can be done at a time.

• Besides, the company is also running an advocacy and education programme to help people spot fake news.

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