IT Minister Wants WhatsApp Chief to Build System to Trace Messages

The messaging platform uses encryption which has made it hard to trace the origin on the sender.

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Tech News
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The challenge of dealing with fake news on WhatsApp lies in its encryption that doesn’t allow even the platform to access messages.
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IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said the government will insist on WhatsApp developing a mechanism to trace origin of messages in cases where the platform is misused by terrorists and 'rogue' elements.

The minister, who met WhatsApp Global Head Will Cathcart, said the top official had assured him of prompt action in these issues of "concern".

"On the issue of traceability, I have conveyed to them traceability shall be their job. But in the event WhatsApp platform is sought to be abused by rogue, terrorists and extremist elements by repeating, re-circulation of messages, then there must be a mechanism where those could be traced to enforce law and order, safety and security of the country," Prasad said after the meeting.

Cathcart told reporters that WhatsApp had reiterated its support for encryption and how important it is for its product.

The Facebook-owned company, which has over 400 million users in India, has so far resisted demands from the Indian government for identifying message originators stating that doing so will undermine end-to-end encryption and affect privacy protection for users.

"This I have told them clearly the mechanism shall be developed by them. And request for that will also come from appropriately high level, so that there is no tinkering in between. I am happy to note that the CEO has assured me that he will take prompt action in these matters and address it," Prasad said.

Cathcart said WhatsApp is focussed on making changes to its product to deal with 'virality', such as placing limits on the number of forwards.

"We talked about the work we are doing to cooperate with law enforcement, put in place training, and handle requests," he said.

Last year, fake news circulated on WhatsApp incited mob fury that led to several instances of lynching across India.

The IT ministry had said that digital platforms cannot escape their 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.

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