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

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 POLL: Wearing masks to be a norm even with availability of coronavirus vaccine

Updated 12 July 2020

TWITTER POLL: Wearing masks to be a norm even with availability of coronavirus vaccine

DUBAI: The World Health Organization has advised on the use of medical masks as to limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19.

“Current information suggests that the two main routes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus are respiratory droplets and contact,” the global health body said in its advisory.

Masks can be used either for protection by healthy persons – to protect themselves from transmission – or by infected individuals to prevent onward transmission.

 

 

The WHO likewise advised that governments should encourage the wearing of masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, especially that a vaccine for coronavirus has yet to be developed that could offer protection to individuals.

Wearing masks have become a norm that even the availability of a vaccine in the future would not deter almost half of Arab News readers that were polled – at 46.6 percent – compared with those who said they will ditch these protections – at 29 percent – once a coronavirus inoculation goes into market.

Almost a quarter of those that were polled meanwhile said they did not mind either way.

Reader @KaysarRoni said face masks is essential when going to the market, to shop or to pray in the mosques, but would be “harmful for health” when worn all the time.