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WhatsApp must comply with Indian laws, set up local entity: Govt

In a meeting with WhatsApp’s CEO Chris Daniels, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said India put forward several demands, including that the company must have a grievance officer in India and have proper compliance of Indian laws.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2018 15:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
WhatsApp,Chris Daniels,India data privacy
WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels is in India as the company attempts to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching.(AFP)

Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said WhatsApp assured the Indian government on Tuesday that it would develop tools to combat the problem of fake messages that cause crimes like mob lynchings.

After a meeting with WhatsApp’s CEO Chris Daniels, Prasad told reporters he had asked WhatsApp to develop a detailed mechanism to trace the origin of any such “sinister” messages, reported Reuters,

“It does not need rocket science to locate a message,” he said, adding that WhatsApp had said it was working with law enforcement agencies to develop its systems.

In the meeting, Prasad told Daniels that the instant messaging firm must comply with Indian laws and set up a corporate presence in the country.

“I had a very productive meeting. I complimented him for extraordinary technological awakening that WhatsApp has led in the country, for education, healthcare, relief in Kerala. These are positive developments,” he said.

However, Prasad also said that there are “also very sinister developments that provokes crime like mob lynching”, or spread of pornography and the firm “must find solutions to these challenges which are a downright criminal violation of Indian laws”.

He said he has suggested three points: WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India, have proper compliance of Indian laws as “we won’t appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America” and WhatsApp, which has become an important component of India’s digital storage, “must have a proper corporate entity located in India”.

Opinion | Lynch mobs are an Indian problem, not WhatsApp

Daniels, who arrived in India on Tuesday, will meet business and government officials during his visit to discuss measures being undertaken to counter the issue of fake news on its platform as well as the impending launch of its payments services in the country, reported PTI.

Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met the IT Secretary and other government officials to outline various steps being taken by the company to tackle fake news in India.

Over the past few months, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp have incited incidents of mob fury across parts of India. The government has sent out two notices to the Facebook-owned company directing it to take urgent measures to curb false information and rumours being spread on the messaging platform.

Read | WhatsApp and user privacy: Your top questions answered

Subsequently, WhatsApp took steps curb mass message forwards and launched an advertising campaign to educate consumers.

In July, WhatsApp said message forwards will be limited to five chats at a time, whether among individuals or groups, and said it will remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 13:39 IST