The WhatsApp messaging application is displayed on a screen of the telephone 3 August 2017. REUTERS/Thomas-and-White – RC1E1EA0A900
WhatsApp responded to a pattern of lynchings in India which is fueled by false rumors spread about the platform—saying on Wednesday it was “shocked” by the incidents.
Over the last two months, more than 20 people have been killed in India after rumours spread on social media that they are child abductors, sexual predators, or engaged in other criminal activities.
The attacks in general, targeting outsiders, have caught officials off guard and left them with few tools to combat the phenomenon.
The land of electronics and IT ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, reports AFP, about the government’s “deep disapproval” of WhatsApp about the “irresponsible and potentially explosive messages.”
“The government has also conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp should immediately take action to end this threat,” it added.
In a letter to the Indian government, WhatsApp said that it “cares deeply about the safety of the people” and had taken steps to combat the scourge of fake news and hoaxes.
Abijeet Nath, left, and Nilotpal Das, right, are some of the more than 20 people have been killed by violent gangs, fueled by rumors about WhatsApp, in India.
“We are shocked by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the important points that you have mentioned,” WhatsApp said in the letter seen by AFP.
The tech company said it was working with Indian researchers to better understand the problem and had implemented changes to reduce the distribution of unwanted messages. In addition, the company offers a $50,000 grants for anyone who can help in curbing the spread of fake news.
Attacks have been reported in at least 11 states recently.
India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with more than 200 million monthly active users and 1.5 billion worldwide. The parent company, Facebook, is struggling with a global data privacy scandal tied to the sharing of information with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
WhatsApp reportedly has plans to launch a public safety campaign in India, in addition.
“We believe that the false information, misinformation and the dissemination of hoaxes, the problems are best addressed collectively by the government, civil society and technology companies to work together,” WhatsApp said, reports AFP.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter covering science, technology and national news for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.