India has asked Facebook to prevent the spread of false texts on its WhatsApp messaging application, saying the content has sparked a series of lynchings and mob beatings across the country.
False messages about child abductors spread over WhatsApp have reportedly led to at least 31 deaths in 10 different states over the past year, including a deadly mob lynching Sunday of five men in the western state of Maharashtra.
In a strongly worded statement Tuesday, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the service “cannot evade accountability and responsibility” when messaging platforms are used to spread misinformation.
“The government has also conveyed in no uncertain terms that Whatsapp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such mala fide activities,” the ministry added.
Facebook and WhatsApp did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but WhatsApp previously told the Reuters news agency it is educating users to identify fake news and is considering changes to the messaging service.
The ministry said law enforcement authorities are working to apprehend those responsible for the killings.
WhatsApp has more than 200 million users in India, the messaging site’s largest market in the world.