What India needs from WhatsApp might not be so easily attainable



  • The CEO of WhatsApp, Chris Daniels, flew down to India to have a one-on-one dialogue with the Indian information and technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday.
  • The Indian government has laid out three measures that it needs WhatsApp to fulfill if they are to continue operating in the country.
  • While some objectives are easier to implement, WhatsApp will still face an issue when trying device a way to trace fake messages to their source.
It’s no secret that WhatsApp has been facing regulatory battles in India on two fronts. One, where lynchings were propagated by spreading fake news via the platform and two, in trying to set up its payment system.

Amid all the chaos the CEO of Whatsapp, Chris Daniels, flew down to India yesterday have a one-on-one with India’s information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad. The request was simple - do these three things and you can stay.

The government has asked Whatsapp to figure out a system where fake messages can be traced back to their origin, set up a local corporate entity and appoint a dedicated grievance officer in India to address claims against the messaging platform.

The missing link

On previous requests by the government to set up an office in India and have an Indian team in place to address the local grievances, Whatsapp was quick to the buck by initiating the required processes.

According to previous reports, WhatsApp had informed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) that were in the process of hiring an Indian team to be present on the ground, including a Head of India and a Head of Policy.

The directive to havean office in India comes, primarily, due to the app wanting to launch its new payments feature in the country.

The crux of the issue lies in the attribution of fake messages.

When the lynching incidents were first brought into the limelight, the government had asked WhatsApp to device a process where messages could be traced back to their origin. WhatsApp responded by saying that any such measure would encroach upon the privacy of its users.

Instead, it limited the forwarding of messages to a maximum of 5 people at a time along with a ‘forwarded’ tag to indicate whether or not a message is an original.

The issue for WhatsApp lies primarily in the fact that the app uses end-to-end encryption for all conversations. Not only does that protect your messages from hackers, but also prevents WhatsApp from reading them.

While the circulation of fake messages and inaccurate news has led to over a dozen lynching incidents across the country as well as ‘fake warnings’ during the Kerala flood torment, the government isn’t depending on WhatsApp alone to solve the problem. They’ve asked internet and telecom services providers to chime in with any solution that could temporarily disable the services of a particular app during an emergency to serve the public interest as well.



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