New Rules for WhatsApp India to Counter Rumored Lynching Messages

Published July 22nd, 2018 - 08:47 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

Social messaging platform WhatsApp announced new rules in India on Friday to counter the rise of lynchings tied to messaged rumors.

More than 20 people have died in India in the past two months after viral messages falsely accused visitors of child kidnapping and other crimes.

Five men, members of a nomadic group, were lynched early this month in India's Maharashtra state. They were accused of being a child abduction ring after one man spoke to a local girl.

"Since the villagers were not satisfied with their answers, they took the men to a room and started beating them with bamboo sticks and stones," police official M. Ramkumar told BBC News.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said Thursday it will restrict users' capacity to forward content to five other "chats" at once, and remove a "quick forward button" feature allowing media messages to be passed on quickly.

WhatsApp has 200 million users in India.

"WhatsApp has become an addiction in India. The kind of fake news being spread through these platforms is scary and is getting out of control," Prakash Singh, Police Foundation of India chairman, told Al Jazeera. "Police are being called to put out these fires but it's is the platform which is letting fires spread in the first place. The police have been struggling to prevent these rumors from spreading."

Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court requested new laws to deal with the lynchings.

Zafar Islam, spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, said the government "is doing everything to ensure WhatsApp and other social media are not misused by vigilante groups or random mobs."

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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