Fake news crackdown: Asked WhatsApp to outline steps taken to deal with rumours, says SS Ahluwalia

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New Delhi | Published: August 8, 2018 5:39:03 PM

The government has asked WhatsApp to convey the various steps taken by them to deal with fake news, even as it said the Centre has no plans to tap into citizen's messages, Parliament was informed today.

WhatsApp had outlined initiatives it is taking to curb fake news circulation, including education and advocacy efforts.

The government has asked WhatsApp to convey the various steps taken by them to deal with fake news, even as it said the Centre has no plans to tap into citizen’s messages, Parliament was informed today.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY) is also running a programme — Information Security Education & Awareness (ISEA) — to highlight the importance of following ethics while using Internet and advice against sharing rumours/ fake news, Minister of State for Electronics and IT SS Ahluwalia said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

“Government has also asked WhatsApp to convey various steps taken by them to deal with fake news and also to share learning material to educate the same,” he said.

In response to a query on whether the government planned to tap citizen’s WhatsApp messages, Ahluwalia said: “No, Sir”.

“Government does not regulate content appearing on Internet. Law enforcement agencies take appropriate action on posting of malicious content on Internet on specific case-to-case basis,” he said in response to a separate query.

Besides, the government has taken several initiatives for user awareness relating to cyber safety and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issues advisories about cyber safety and security, he pointed.

Following multiple incidents of mob lynching across the country, the government had slapped messaging platform WhatsApp with two notices, with the second one warning that it will treat the messaging platform as ‘abettor’ of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not put in place.

WhatsApp, in its response to these notices, had outlined initiatives it is taking to curb fake news circulation, including education and advocacy efforts.

To another query, Ahluwalia stated that the government is fully committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens as enshrined in the constitution of India.

Ahluwalia pointed out that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also been regularly interacting with popular social media sites like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc to ensure more effective enforcement.

“MHA has also issued a number of advisories which includes advisory on untoward incidents in the name of protection of cows…advisory on cyber crime prevention and control…and also an advisory on incidents of lynching by mobs in some States fuelled by rumours of lifting/kidnapping of children,” he said.

He added pursuant to the directions of a Supreme Court order, MHA has issued a directive to all states for implementation of directions of the apex court and has constituted a Group of Ministers and a High level Committee to make recommendations in this matter.

Answering another question, the Minister said the data traffic per smartphone in India is currently estimated to be 5.7 GB per month.

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