With the government hardening its stand on fake and provocative content circulated on WhatsApp, top officials from the instant messaging app including chief executive officer (CEO) Chris Daniels have sought time from IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and the meeting is expected this week. Though there is no clarity on the issues Daniels wants to discuss with Prasad, sources said it could be on the government’s demand that WhatsApp devise ways to identify how fake and provocative content is spread as well as ways to identify those who are spreading it. Another issue that is expected to be discussed is WhatsApp’s digital payment service.
The meeting request from WhatsApp CEO comes almost a month after chief operating officer Matthew Idema met IT secretary Ajay Sawhney, where it was conveyed that the government is not satisfied with the company’s efforts to check fake messages.
The ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) has already sent two notices to WhatsApp, one of July 3 and other on July 19, asking it to deploy more efforts on checking provocative content, which has led to a spate of violent incidents across the country.
A senior government official said, “In case of fake news, if an intermediary is using privacy as an excuse not to take steps for greater transparency, the government can’t sit on it as law and order is at stake. We are only asking these platforms for transparency. The government is clear that end-to-end encryption should not be an excuse for no transparency and transparency should not be an excuse for snooping.”
Talks between MeitY and WhatsApp have hit a wall as the government wants WhatsApp to trace the source of fake
content, which the company has expressed its inability to provide. This meeting would explore a way ahead, the
Another issue that is troubling WhatsApp is its digital payment service, which is yet to kick off. Another official said: “WhatsApp wants to discuss its payment service. We told them if you want to do banking in India, you should be registered here as a corporate entity. WhatsApp said they are in the process of setting up an Indian entity”.
Besides, the issue of safety and storage of personal data of consumers could also be taken up. MeitY has already asked the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) on the safety of the data and the kind of data which WhatsApp will share with its parent, Facebook.