Mumbai / Bengaluru (Reuters) – WhatsApp of Facebook Inc is launching a global test to curb user-submitted news, said the messaging app after rumors had led to several killings in India and triggered calls to action authorities ,
The WhatsApp app logo can be seen on a smartphone in this image capture from 1
Arson through arson in India, WhatsApps biggest market with more than 200 million users, has called on the government to prevent the spread of false texts and provocative content, causing a public relations nightmare.
False news about kidnappers on WhatsApp has led to mass penalties for more than a dozen people in India this year, some of whom have died.
"We believe that these changes – which we will continue to evaluate – will help keep WhatsApp as it was originally planned: a private messaging app," WhatsApp said in a blog post on Thursday.
WhatsApp did not specify where the limit for forwarded messages lies elsewhere, but specifically in India, they are limited to five chats at a time, regardless of whether they are individuals or groups. WhatsApp will also remove the quick-forward button next to the media news in India.
Both steps are intended to keep the masses moving forward in India, a country that, according to WhatsApp, has more news, photos and videos than anyone else.
Recent changes have been welcomed by technology experts.
"This change will make it difficult for people to relay messages, it will add a level of friction to the process," said Nikhil Pahwa, a co-founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation.
WhatsApp will also meet non-governmental agencies and other groups in the capital New Delhi on Friday to discuss ways to stem the spread of false news, a source at the company said, asking them not to be named ,
India's technology ministry, which earlier this month called for WhatsApp to keep abuses at bay, said Thursday in a statement that it wanted more effective measures to ensure accountability and facilitate law enforcement.
"When rumors and fake messages are spread by troublemakers, the medium used for such propaganda can not escape responsibility and accountability," it said. "If they remain silent onlookers, they are responsible for being treated as instigators and then faced with legal consequences."
WhatsApp has been told that the issue is very serious and deserves a more sensitive response, "he added.
In response to the ministry's previous call, WhatsApp had introduced a new feature to flag forwarded messages and alert recipients that the sender had not created the message.
In its first attempt to combat the stir of fake news, the company published ads in major Indian newspapers last week to dispel misinformation.
But it has also been said that partnership with the government and society is needed to curb the spread of false information.
Last weekend, police arrested more than 48 people, who said they were part of a mob that murdered a tech technician in southern India on suspicion of kidnapping him and a group of friends.
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai and Krishna V Kurup in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru and Euan Rocha in Mumbai; Edited by Gopakumar Warrier