Tuesday, 12 February 2019

India: Govt. seeks tracing of fake WhatsApp messages

The advent of technological advancements in the modern-day world has been a blessing in disguise. With the internet now being the key source of solution for all the problems, it has transferred the present-day life over the virtual platform. Addicted to this modern practice, people find answers to all their needs over the online medium including information, communication, records, commercial transactions, banking, grievances redressal and FIR reporting, etc. 

Innovative Communication

Increasing digitalization has modified the system of communication. Integrating the people across the world, separated by geographical barriers on a medium that eliminates the necessity of physical presence, has been one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Individuals are now connected with others through emails, chats, messages, internet audio/ video calls, etc. transmitted through electronic impulses.

Unified Interface of WhatsApp

While many online portals are available catering to the major needs of communication of the people, on the most popular web-based App in this domain is ‘WhatsApp’. The Facebook owned WhatsApp, not only allows people to communicate with each other by sending/ receiving text messages, internet-based audio/ video calls but also permits sharing of media in the form of pictures, videos, documents all on a single App. The said App can also be operated from desktops.

Challenges before WhatsApp

The easy accessibility of internet and WhatsApp has become a new device for the anti-social elements to carry out the acts of cyber-terrorism through such modes spread with the intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of the country or to strike terror in the people cause widespread fear. False and incorrect news or information create a sense of distrust among the citizens of the nation. The spread of rumours often leads to civil commotion and distress amongst the citizens thus hampering the peace in the country.

Controlling mechanism

The Government has ordered WhatsApp to formulate stringent strategies to trace the origins of incendiary messages in circulation using technological innovations when the social media giant resisted to determine the message source on account being violative of its privacy policy. However, as a measure to prevent sharing of rumours or unadvisable information, WhatsApp has capped the number of recipients of chat message to 5 to curb mass spamming.[1]

In furtherance to tackle the menace of fake and inappropriate information through its media, WhatsApp has appointed a grievance officer to address the concerns and complaints associated thereto.[2] It enables the users to seek help through mobile App or by contacting the said officer on email, signed with electronic signature or queries sent through postal services.

The Government on October 31, 2018 conveyed to the management of WhatsApp that the messaging App was required to trace the origin of the messages being transferred through its platform.[3] In the said regards the Government clarified that it did not seek to decrypt the messages but required WhatsApp to look into the location and identity of the senders of messages causing provocation for which the App has agreed for. It was stated that the measures are being taken to ensure that WhatsApp does not become a source of circulation of improper and incorrect spam messages.

With the objective of creating a safe online environment and preventing the use of much used messaging App for the fulfilment of nefarious activities, the Government has required WhatsApp for the source identification to curb such malpractices.

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