Ravi Shankar Prasad meets WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels to discuss menace of fake news, asks for grievance officer in India

Union IT and Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in New Delhi and said that it was a "productive meeting." Daniels is in India this week as the company is trying to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching. According to sources, Daniels will be in India for 4-5 days and meet business and government officials during his visit.

Union IT and Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in New Delhi and commented that it was a "productive meeting."

Daniels is in India this week as the company is trying to address concerns around fake news on its messaging platform which have led to horrific crimes like mob-lynching. According to sources, Daniels will be in India for 4-5 days and meet business and government officials during his visit.

"I complimented him for extraordinary technological awakening that WhatsApp has led in the country, for education, healthcare, relief in Kerala. These are positive development," Prasad was quoted as saying. Reflecting on fake news which circulates via WhatsApp in India, Prasad said that there are also very sinister developments which provoke crime like mob lynching and revenge porn and urged Daniels to find solution to these challenges "which are downright criminal violation of Indian laws."

"I suggested three points," Prasad said. "One, that WhatsApp must have a grievance officer in India. Second, you must properly comply with Indian laws. We won't appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America. Thirdly, WhatsApp has become an important component of India's digital storage and must have a proper corporate entity located in India."

Sources said that the agenda of Daniels' visit was to discuss measures which were 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.

Last month, WhatsApp top executives including COO Matthew Idema had met the IT secretary and other Indian 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.

The IT ministry has, in the past, said that the platform cannot escape its responsibility for such rampant abuse and needed to find originators of provocative messages. It had also warned that in the absence of adequate checks, it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow.

In its response, WhatsApp has informed the government that it is building a local team, including India head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation even as it did not meet the key demand of identifying message originators.

Apart from education and advocacy programmes, WhatsApp has also introduced new features to let its users identify forwarded messages, restricted number of forwards at a time, and brought out full-page ads giving "easy tips" to spot fake news.

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