India wants ability to trace WhatsApp messages to stop violence

India wants ability to trace WhatsApp messages to stop violence
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The Indian government is pressing WhatsApp to give it the locations and identities of people using the Facebook-owned mobile messaging app to spread fake information that has led to violence.

India’s Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked WhatsApp vice president Chris Daniels about the action during a meeting this week, according to the Indian news service The Hindu.

The company has previously said that handing over such information would undermine the platform's end-to-end encryption that has made it popular with privacy-minded users.

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The Indian government is standing by its request for the data.

“When we talk of traceability, we don’t talk of decrypting the messages but we insist on location and identification of the original sender of WhatsApp messages when such messages lead to provocation of violence, heinous offences and other serious crimes,” Prasad told The Hindu.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed that the company is working with the Indian government to try to come up with a solution to address abuse on the platform.

“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with government leaders, including Minister Prasad who confirmed his support for encryption and the privacy of our users,” the spokesperson said. “WhatsApp is deeply committed to serving the people of India and working closely with civil society and government leaders to help address abuse on our platform. Our new Head of WhatsApp India, who will be named by the end of the year, will build a local team that can serve our customers in India as well as work with partners and government leaders to help keep people safe.”

The Indian government’s latest request for the information comes amid an outbreak of violence and lynchings in the country that have been catalyzed on the platform.

A string of murders have come as a result of rumors spread on WhatsApp, falsely accusing people of abducting children, prompting mobs to pursue and in many cases kill people.

As of July, around 30 people had been killed because of WhatsApp spread rumors.

WhatsApp has tried to curb the spread of misinformation by limiting the number of messages someone can forward and letting users know what information is being forwarded, but has continued to combat the issue.

The government previously asked for the ability to track messages following an August meeting with WhatsApp, but the company didn’t comply then either.