WhatsApp has to follow Indian laws, says Ravi Shankar Prasad after meeting CEO

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Aug 21, 2018, 01.34 PM(IST)

File photo of Ravi Shankar Prasad Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said the WhatsApp has to follow Indian laws and regulations. 

Prasad made the statement after meeting WhatsApp Chief Executive Officer Chris Daniels in view of the spread of fake and provocative content on its platform. 

The minister said Daniels assured that WhatsApp will function in compliance with Indian laws.

"I had a very productive meeting. I complimented him for extraordinary technological awakening that WhatsApp has led in the country, for education, healthcare, relief in Kerala. These are positive developments. There are also very sinister developments, that provokes crime like mob lynching, revenge porn and you must find solutions to these challenges which are the downright criminal violation of Indian laws," Prasad said.

The union minister also suggested three points to WhatsApp CEO to curb misuse of the popular messaging app.  

"I suggested three points. First, WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India. Second, you must have a proper compliance of Indian laws. We won't appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America. Third, WhatsApp has become an important component of India's digital storage & must have a proper corporate entity located in India," he added.

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WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels is in India this week, as the company attempts to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching. 

Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met IT Secretary and other Indian government officials to outline various steps being taken by the company to tackle fake news in India.

Over the past few months, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has sent out two notices to the Facebook-owned company directing it to take urgent measures to curb false information and rumours being spread on the messaging platform.

The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow.

In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.

Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving "easy tips" to spot fake news.

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