Fear of Lynching New Normal In Indian Society
WhatsApp: The New Killer in The Market

Why at this point in the history does one group of humans consider another group less than human? Where does all this sadistic behavior stem from?  Owing to the rumors regarding sexual predators, thieves, and child kidnappers circulating on social media platforms like Whatsapp, more than 20 people have lost their lives in the past two months.

The messaging giant stated on Wednesday that it was “horrified” by an outbreak of lynchings in India triggered by made-up rumors that were circulated on its platform as the government indicted Whatsapp of negligence.

Social émigrés, such as immigrant drudges, unknown passers-by, or population living on the fringes of society are falling prey to such fabricated news, leaving authorities fumbling for a satisfactory response. In the majority of the cases, WhatsApp is found as the culprit behind the circulation of these rumors. Spreading with the lightning speed via personal communication applications instead of conventional methods like printed posters or through word of mouth, it is defying the traditional gathering skills of police.

A stern announcement made by the Electronics and IT ministry on Tuesday aired the government’s “deep dissatisfaction” to the higher authorities of WhatsApp over the “irresponsible and explosive messages”. It further stated that the government has conveyed in certain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate step to end this nuisance.

In order to curb such issues, the bilateral approach is required. First, tech giants like WhatsApp must formulate artificial intelligence (AI) tools that can effectively block forwarded messages impelling violence without intruding user privacy. Second, and most crucial, spreading awareness through awareness campaigns.

In its letter to the Indian Government, WhatsApp showed its sincere concerns regarding people’s safety and assured to take stern measures to combat the menace of fake news and hoaxes.

In the letter seen by AFP, WhatsApp said, “We’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised”. The company declared that it has been working with Indian researchers to get better insights into the problem and has introduced changes which will restrain the spread of unwanted messages.

Additionally, it is also planning to launch a new label in India which will aid the users in differentiating between forwarded messages and messages written by someone they personally know.

Hoaxes about child kidnappers on WhatsApp saw eight men killed in eastern India last year but it seems that the same information is re-circulating. Recently attacks have been reported in 11 states, while the most recent one being in Maharashtra. Five men were beaten to death by a wild mob.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users. Whatsapp announced its plans to run public safety campaigns in India considering the importance given by Indian market to the tech giant. It also appreciated the efforts taken by police to use WhatsApp’s platform to educate people about its (WhatsApp’s) potential misuse.

The company reported that such incidents need to be tackled collectively: by civil society, by the government and technology companies working together.