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Expect large social media platforms to behave responsibly, says IT Sec Sawhney

WhatsApp has been under fire over rampant abuse of its platform for circulation of fake news, which has incited mob fury leading to lynching incidents in various parts of the country.

PTI 07 Aug 2018, 01:31 PM India

Amid concerns over rumors and false information circulated on popular platforms, the government today said it expects large social media firms like WhatsApp as also others to behave responsibly and take steps to ensure that users have full confidence in them.

WhatsApp has been under fire over rampant abuse of its platform for circulation of fake news, which has incited mob fury leading to lynching incidents in various parts of the country.

Such is the level of alarm among policymakers that the telecom department has sought views of the industry on technical measures that can be adopted for blocking mobile apps like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram in situations where national security and public order are under threat.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Trai conference here, IT Secretary Ajay P Sawhney said: "We expect all platforms to behave in a responsible manner especially those platforms with the large user base."

He was responding to a specific query on outstanding issues with WhatsApp over the spread of rumors and hoaxes on its platform.

He said users need to have confidence in the platform they are on.

"We believe all major platforms have a large presence here. And they will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that users have complete confidence in their platform," he said.

Sawhney, however, said that there was no particular reference from the IT Ministry over blocking any platform, as such.

Whenever an issue crops up, the ministry examines it in accordance with IT Act.

"The IT Act provides all kinds of obligations on the platforms and intermediaries," he said.

Asked if the ministry has lined up a meeting with companies on the issue of curbing false information on the social media platforms, Sawhney said that it dealt with an issue as and when it came up.

The ministry has in the past too written to service providers, he pointed out.

WhatsApp has been in the eye of a storm over mob-lynching incidents being incited by false information and rumors circulating on its platform. Last month, the government expressed dissatisfaction over measures listed by WhatsApp for checking fake news, saying the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages.

The government has also warned the Facebook-owned messaging service that in the absence of adequate checks, it will be treated as 'abettor’ of rumor propagation and legal consequences shall follow.

Responding to this, WhatsApp informed the government of its efforts to build a local team on the ground, including India's head, but still did not meet a key demand of IT Ministry, that of identifying the message originators.

Sawhney said that the IT ministry is "looking into" WhatsApp's response.

"We have received their response. They have taken steps to limit forwarding and are trying to ramp up the platform. We have also requested various platforms to make sure that the flagging of concerns is possible within the platform. These are global platforms. We expect, over a period of time, they will ramp up facilities so if anything is disturbing, then the user should be able to flag the concern," the IT secretary said.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) last month wrote to all telecom operators, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and others seeking their inputs to block the applications under the Information Technology (IT) Act during specific circumstances.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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