Fake news being circulated through WhatsApp, the internet-based messaging application, across the country has taken several lives, and this has prompted cyber security experts to call for a stringent law to deal with such problems in the country.

Some 20 people had been killed by mobs in the past few months across the country owing to fake news being circulated over this messaging application and police sources have said that they are hardly able to do much to curb this menace due to the “end to end encryption” being provided by such applications and their own lack of expertise.

A senior police officer dealing with cyber related crimes told this correspondent, “The increase in the use of smartphones and internet has made our task very difficult to curb dissemination of fake news or viral messages on the internet. We are hardly able to do much in these cases because it is the service providers who have the entire database and only they know what is being shared on their platform. It is only they who can censor such messages and filter out malicious content being shared on their platform. Moreover, the police also lack expertise in tackling cyber crimes and we are still developing the mechanism to deal with this recent trend.”

The most recent incident that had sparked a row over tackling fake news came from Dhule in Maharashtra where a group of five men were beaten to death by an angry mob who thought they were kidnappers, due to a hoax message that was being circulated in the area over WhatsApp about kidnappers being on the lookout for kids in the district.

Pavan Duggal, a cyber law expert who has also recently written a book titled WhatsApp Law, told The Sunday Guardian: “We need to have a law on fake news so as to tackle the dissemination of fake news. For this, both the government as well as service provider need to act efficiently and with due diligence. WhatsApp needs to comply with cyber security laws in India. Section 75 of the IT Act 2000 clearly says that any service provider operating in India needs to comply and would be governed under the Indian IT Act. But I fail to see that happening. As many as 23 deaths have occurred due to fake news, yet we are silent on how to deal with this menace.”

Duggal added: “The service provider has the knowledge of what is being shared through its platform, but they act as mere spectators rather than hunting down those sharing such messages. Specific mechanism has to be evolved for the Indian market for auto-dissemination of information.”

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