back to article India tells WhatsApp to add filters, ASAP

India has warned Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp to do something about abuse of its service that has led to murders. A July 3rd statement from the nation’s Ministry of Electronics & IT says “Instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently because of large number of irresponsible and explosive …

  1. JeevesMkII

    Shoot the messenger

    Sure, India. It's the instant messaging service's fault that people are getting lynched.

    Perhaps it would help if you paid your police a decent wage so they weren't all corrupt as hell, then people would have more trust in criminal justice through proper channels. But that would cost money, so lets blame it on telecommunications. I'm sure that makes sense.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Brenda McViking

      Re: Shoot the messenger

      As a resident of India, I couldn't agree with you (Jeeves, that is, not AC) more. Your downvoters are clearly unaware of the actual realities of living in the 3rd world. It's not "the west, but poorer," it's a completely different culture.

      The key thing that needs to happen is getting the general populace educated. This of course will take a generation or more, whereas politicians whinging at whatsapp is something that can win votes in the here and now. The Indian Government also use SMS as a conduit for public information, so it's no surprise that villagers with categorically zero education being told through their smartphones that child rapists were spotted in the next village will drag non-locals out of cars innocently passing through and beat them to death, thinking they're doing the right thing.

      They have been shutting off mobile internet to deal with this type of issue, and let's not forget, viral-style instant-messaging controlled by bad-actors caused major issues in London during the "I want a new TV" riots some time back, organised through blackberry messenger (remember that?). The UK gov whinged back then about secure-comms being outside their control. Is this really any different?

      1. Mazo

        Re: Shoot the messenger

        Your argument is nonsense . People in the West or India or Timbuktu are just people - none more inherently "intelligent" or less susceptible to manipulation than the other.

        Even in the "Educated" West, elections have been unduly influenced by fake news, false information and motivated campaigns of provoking outrage. People have lost their lives when extremists have resorted to violence by shooting sitting Congresswomen and Senators ! Despite Obama showing his birth certificate millions still believed he was a Muslim from Kenya !

        Yet your "Solution" is to sufficiently educate villagers in India to determine the verisimilitude of "rumors" and "gossip" ? So for another "generation" we ought to sit back and allow these vigilante lynchings and mob violence to continue? Do you think these people who spread fake news and provocative stories will remain silent for an entire generation ?

        There has to be some effort from service providers to be part of the solution - Govt compelling them to do something to limit if not eliminate the spread of viral messages is a good thing. The liberty to communicate instantly with tens of thousands of people should have some checks and balances. Failure of Facebook to participate in finding a solution would be tantamount to them being complicit in this phenomena of fake news and the violence it generates.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shoot the messenger

          "People in the West or India or Timbuktu are just people - none more inherently "intelligent" or less susceptible to manipulation than the other."

          Obviously wrong.

          Entire communities in the west are not committing lynchings and punishment rape at the behest of a message on Whatsapp.

          "There has to be some effort from service providers to be part of the solution - Govt compelling them to do something to limit if not eliminate the spread of viral messages is a good thing."

          The government cannot "compel" something that is technically impossible - the interception and censoring of private encrypted messages - because you want it.

          "Yet your "Solution" is to sufficiently educate villagers in India to determine the verisimilitude of "rumors" and "gossip" ?"

          The only possible solution is to educate people not to behave like animals; except maybe to outlaw them from owning of having access to the internet entirely. Even then, the same thing will still be happening, as it was before the advent of smartphones and internet messaging services. I am sure the only thing that has changed is not that these things happen in Indian villages, but that it gets reported to the outside world.

    3. Mazo

      Re: Shoot the messenger

      What makes your think its because of "corrupt police" that these lynchings are taking place? That's a ignorant claim.

      If 10 policemen assigned to a village police department are confronted by a mob of 3000 intent on lynching the "suspects" in custody - what are these 10 policemen with their 5 rifles and 50 bullets supposed to do ? Kill 4-5 rioters and risk getting lynched themselves ?

      Paying them more wouldn't change their choices.

    4. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: Shoot the messenger

      "Perhaps it would help if you paid your police a decent wage so they weren't all corrupt as hell..."

      There's actually no body of research that proves that improving the wages of corrupt officers reduces corruption. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. Corruption is a systematic problem of corporate culture [NB not national culture] and it's slower and more difficult than just throwing money at the problem.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    “Instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently"

    As opposed to what?

    Instances of lynching of guilty people?

    Just stop the lynching I say!!!

  3. Long John Brass

    I am deeply nervous of...

    Any calls to curtail communications platforms in the name of fake/hate/anti/pro/whatever speech.

    Who get to decide which is what? The government? The Media? The angry mob?

    Sorry, but no. People need to start taking responsibility for the shit they do in response to the shit they read or see in a "video"; That goes for all of us. I understand the comment up-thread about "less developed" parts of the world struggling to separate fact from fiction and that boiling over into violence. But to be fair, that happens in the west too :(

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you have 1.3bn people it's difficult to monitor, control or categorise them so what better way than instilling a fear of transient people so everyone stays put. I wish I wasn't so cynical sometimes but someone has to see it for what it is.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the local 'reasonable' cultural response to any rumour of wrongdoing is to drum up a large mob and then hang, beat or stone to death the subject of the rumour then I think that locality is going to have issue with pretty much any messaging platform.

    There are issues of education, lawfulness, policing as well but those are big questions which WhatsApp isn't going to answer. It sounds a bit Daily Mail but maybe a country should put space programs and formula one tracks on the back burner until it sorts out basic education, sanitation and healthcare for its population.

    It's not just the 3rd world though. There have been serious issues in the UK when the ill-educated didn't know the difference between paediatrician and paedophile and rent-a-mob came out.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the panacea that is "Education"

    To those proposing education as the answer - an "educated" person is a relative term - there are things that one knows and understands and things that one does not know or understand.

    The corollary of this is that everyone therefore will have an issue where their response is not going to be rational - because the unknown creates fear.

    This irrational response is now happening everywhere in the world in various contexts.

    Without question this is being accelerated and catalysed by the new social media platforms - it has never been as cheap and anonymous to spread falsehoods in mankind's history.

    So this isn't about India, the 3rd world and so - these are all straw man responses. There is a problem here and it is happening everywhere.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I seriously disagree with you

      Education is indeed the answer and I do not view that education is relative.

      Education is teaching a person that things need to be viewed with a critical mind, that people are not to be feared simply because they do not have the same color or culture that you are used to, that diversity is the richness of the human race and that stupidity and greed have no color.

      Education is the incessant treadmill of treacle-like progress toward that goal, with all the insufficient budgets and systemic failures due to political cowardice and expedience. Aside from the fact that we know very well how to teach people to read and write, but we still haven't a procedure to teach people how to think independantly - mainly because every government prefers blind obedience.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I seriously disagree with you

        Again with "the" answer. Education is but a tool. One at that. It is not the same as learning. It is blinding to the thought process to treat education as a panacea, "the answer".

        You compare with reading and writing - there is no subjectivity of the individual here - it is a rote action once learned. Critical thinking isn't, to compare it would be the equivalent of education creating shakespearean grade writers out of everyone or every literate being able to figure out an encrypted piece of text - they could "read" it, but not all will understand it. Some might. Application of skills cannot be prescriptive, thus a free, critical thinker cannot be prescriptively created.

        So an education - time bound and thus requiring a select set of experiences in that time, has never shown to create this absolute state of the critical thinker - objective, balanced unbiased and rational - in any and all areas, topics, situations; known and unknown. You can at best instil some base skills and hope life experiences improve things.

        That still means the post "educated" population will not approach all situations rationally. One might have had a travel experience that makes them understand better than another who didn't. That is the learning it continues after your "education", a structured phase.

        Don't confuse government incompetence with some "blind obedience" conspiracy. The outcome of "the Education" described by you exists no where and never has. It is an utopian ideal, time is finite.

        Meanwhile you need a solution or even a workaround for the real world until you get there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I seriously disagree with you

          BTW, "Education is the answer" is almost always quoted by those who consider themselves "educated" (a set of learnings that came from their run of "education" and subsequent life experiences) and prescribe it to those they consider less so. These "lesser" folk very likely have a wealth of knowledge in other areas, just not what the prescriber considers useful and pertinent.

          Which means someone wiser that the prescriber (a different set of learnings that came from their run of "education" and subsequent life experiences) will be saying the same thing , this person isn't educated enough - when the contexual situation changes and the prescriber behaves irrationally.

          Which mean everyone will always needs an "education". Which means no one is in this perfect state of "educated".

          I agree learn as much, build as many base skills as possible. But that makes it a necessary condition, not a sufficient one, as is alluded here with "education is THE answer".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The article is a bit misleading on one point: Apple has been hardening its devices to protect what's stored locally on them. However, AFAIK, they've always happily collaborated with authorities to give access to what's mirrored on their cloud.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Reminiscent of the problems caused by the Babel fish

    "Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation."

    Doffs hat to the late, great Douglas Adams

  9. EnviableOne

    Up next: postal service charged with Hate mail

    Sure, India. It's the instant messaging service's fault that people are getting lynched. its the people sending the messages.

    Just as the mail service is not responsible for the content of the content of letters, How can WhatsApp be responsible for the content of messages on its network, especially when they are end-to-end encrypted.

  10. Mathman

    Maybe some compromise

    It should be possible to detect messages that are being forwarded on to many people and add some kind of warning - without actually intercepting encrypted communications. e.g. Hash the message and if the same message is spreading like wildfire, slow down the spread and insert warnings to suggest the message may be fake.

    1. Francis Boyle

      Re: Maybe some compromise

      I doubt that hashing would word since the forwarded message would probably not have the same hash as the original) and those with malicious intent could just change it) but with the appropriate network analytics it should be possible to send a warning to those likely to be targeted. It needn't be perfect. Just catching a majority might be enough to prevent the critical mass needed for mob violence. Of course, it won't work at all if there is a critical mass of people just wanting an excuse for violence but sometimes just questioning the message, sowing a seed of doubt, can be enough.

      A second point. The problem here seems to be the familiar one that the internet can spread lies faster than the relevant authorities can deal with them. (Yes, something like that was always true, but improved communications made it a much less serious problem. Now, it seems, we are going backwards.) I don't see it as an unreasonable burden for the companies involved to be required to help deal with a problem they are a party to creating.

  11. CarlWoods

    What's happening in India is just awful. People are not protected!

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