India issues fresh warning to WhatsApp over lynching deaths

This photo taken on June 10, 2018 shows Indian protesters demanding the arrest and punishment of people involved in the killing of two men in Karbi Anglong district, during a protest in Guwahati, the capital city of India’s northeastern state of Assam. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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India issues fresh warning to WhatsApp over lynching deaths

  • India’s Supreme Court earlier this week asked the government to enact a new law to stem what it called “horrendous acts” of lynching and punish offenders
  • WhatsApp has also bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation

NEW DELHI: WhatsApp could face legal action in India if it does not take further steps to tackle the spread of false rumors, the government said Thursday, in fresh criticism of the platform over a spate of lynchings.
More than 20 people have been killed by mobs in the past two months across the country after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated on WhatsApp.
Under pressure from authorities to end the spread of “fake news,” the hugely popular smartphone service has introduced new features to help users identify messages that have been forwarded.
But in a strongly worded statement released Thursday, India’s information technology ministry said the action taken was not enough.
“Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp,” it said.
“When rumors and fake news get propagated by mischief-mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.
“If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”
WhatsApp has also bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation.
But the platform has refused to snoop on user content to help authorities crack down on the issue, citing privacy protection.
In its statement, the ministry called on WhatsApp to enable the “traceability” of provocative or inflammatory messages when an official request is made.
India’s Supreme Court earlier this week asked the government to enact a new law to stem what it called “horrendous acts” of lynching and punish offenders.
Lynchings based on misjudgment or malicious information are not a new phenomenon in India. But the spread of smartphones and Internet access in the country’s poorest and most isolated areas has exacerbated the problem.
An engineer was killed in a mob attack last week in the southern state of Karnataka, while five people were lynched in neighboring Maharashtra on July 1.
The government had taken WhatsApp to task earlier this month for the “irresponsible and explosive messages” being shared among its 200 million Indian users — the company’s largest market.
In response to that criticism, WhatsApp said it was “horrified” by the violence and announced changes that it said would reduce the spread of unwanted messages.


Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

Updated 18 October 2018
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Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

  • Twitter found 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran
  • Nearly 4,000 accounts affiliated with Russian troll farm

WASHINGTON: Twitter published a trove of some 10 million tweets that it said are potentially the product of state-backed operations by Russia and Iran, shedding new light on the scale and nature of misinformation campaigns mounted by the two nations.
Twitter said on Wednesday that it had identified 3,841 accounts affiliated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” that has been indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller for attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
It found another 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran.
“We are making this data available with the goal of encouraging open research and investigation of these behaviors from researchers and academics around the world,” Twitter said in a statement on its “elections integrity” site.
In total, the exposed accounts shared more than 10 million tweets and 2 million images and videos, Twitter said, before being taken down.
Twitter had already made public the existence of tweets it believes to be the product of foreign misinformation campaigns, but the release of the tweets themselves on Wednesday will allow researchers to learn much more about Russia and Iran’s disinformation efforts on Twitter since 2016.
It comes less than one month before US Congressional elections which are already the subject of foreign-directed social media campaigns, according to senior US intelligence officials.
The release shows that both the Iranian and Russian operations started out as campaigns to support countries’ governments at home, but the Moscow-based effort expanded into an “offensive weapon” targeted at the United States, said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which has seen the tweets.
“The Iranian operation was clumsy. It tried to use social media to draw people toward pro-regime messaging sites,” said Nimmo, whose lab published a detailed analysis of the tweets on Wednesday.
“The Russian operation was much more skilled. It masqueraded as real Americans to turn real Americans against Hillary Clinton, and against each other,” Nimmo added, referring to Donald Trump’s presidential election challenger.