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Editorial

TRIBUNE EDIT-WhatsApp cautioned! No licence to promote cyber recklessness

August 23, 2018 05:45 AM

COURTESY THE TRIBUNE AUG 23

WhatsApp cautioned!
No licence to promote cyber recklessness
India has given a strong message to technology giants controlling social media platforms from out-of-country locations — if you want to operate in the country, you must respect the law of the land. Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has been upfront in conveying the country’s stand on social media to WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels — set up a corporate entity in India, appoint an empowered local point person for quick response and find a technological solution to track and curb fake messages. India is the biggest market for WhatsApp, with about 20 crore users; hence, it cannot afford to take Prasad lightly. India’s concerns are genuine. Fake messages via Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have resulted in several incidents of mob violence in the hinterlands, including mob lynching over WhatsApp-circulated rumours of child-lifters. Carriers of such messages, therefore, cannot be allowed to operate unchecked.
Prasad now needs to walk that tough talk. For, mere tough-love messages do not ensure compliance. This issue is of critical importance in the light of the forthcoming 2019 General Election. Undoubtedly, rogue elements will be inclined to misuse instant messaging platforms to spread rumours and fake news before this crucial political event. The government, therefore, must establish a mechanism in advance that would nip deviant tendencies in the bud.
Borderless cyber firms must respect territorial laws of respective countries for their own good. No country can permit their platforms to destabilise their socio-economic order merely because of their physical absence in its territorial jurisdiction. The example of Beijing is quite evident, which has made presence of several popular social media brands, including WhatsApp, conditional upon setting up their servers in China. New Delhi should stop tolerating unbridled use of social media in its territory and insist on bringing their servers to India. The Reserve Bank of India has already taken the initiative for payment apps, the same can be extended to instant messaging. The hitch will be the costs involved. The government must not be seen as parsimonious on this count

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