New Delhi, February 6: Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, WhatsApp has sent out a stern warning to political parties against the alleged misuse of the messaging app. While WhatsApp didn't reveal the names of political parties who received the warning or nature of the misuse, it has threatened to ban political parties if they found abusing the platform. The Lok Sabha polls must be held by May.
"We have seen a number of parties attempt to use WhatsApp in ways that it was not intended, and our firm message to them is that using it in that way will result in bans of our service," Carl Woog, head of communications for WhatsApp, said, as reported by Reuters. “We are trying to be very clear going into the election that there is abuse on WhatsApp. We are working very hard to identify it and prevent it as soon as possible,” he said. Mob Lynching: WhatsApp COO Matthew Idema Apprises Govt of Steps Taken to Curb Fake News.
While in-charge of BJP's national Information and Technology department Amit Malviya denied having any meeting with WhatsApp representatives, Congress’ social media head, Divya Spandana, said the party does not abuse WhatsApp. With over 200 million monthly active users, India is WhatsApp's biggest market in the world. Therefore, the app is being used widely by political workers for campaigning during the election period.
WhatsApp is being misused to spread fake news and communal content that have resulted in a number of mob lynchings. The government has asked the Facebook-owned platform to come out with effective solutions to curb the menace of fake news. It also warned the company that mediums used for propagation of rumours are liable to be treated as ‘abettors’ and can face legal consequences if they remain “mute spectators”.
WhatsApp officials have also engaged with the Election Commission (EC) and assured them that it will take various steps ahead of polls to prevent the misuse of its platform, and bring to India its fake news verification model ‘Verificado’ that has been used in other markets like Brazil and Mexico.