As mob lynchings fueled by WhatsApp messages sweep India, authorities struggle to combat fake news
Rumors spreading across Indian villages via WhatsApp have fueled more than 12 mob lynchings in recent months. Most recently, a mob killed 5 beggars after a rumor suggested they were trafficking children. National authorities are still struggling to combat this trend and local authorities are attempting a number of human-based responses, such as issuing warnings and hiring street performers to spread public awareness. On one recent occasion, one of these individuals hired to help stop the rumors was himself targeted and killed by a mob. India’s 200 million WhatsApp users, the company’s largest market, are largely new to smartphones and the app is used by political parties and a host of others with interests in spreading questionable content. WhatsApp officials are working to improve functions within the ap to identify forwarded messages and improve chat group controls. Unlike Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp, content on WhatsApp cannot be easily monitored and banned because content is sent as encrypted messages between users and groups. These features of WhatsApp have made it a popular ap across a diverse range of groups around the world, including human rights activists as well as extremist groups.