“You look knackered, Chotu; kya hua ?” asked a concerned Motu as he walked into the house. “Oh, nothing to worry about, Motuji. Was feeling feverish; will take a P-500 tab and I’d be fine soon.”

P-500! Be careful, that paracetamol contains the dangerous Machupo virus!

Who said this nonsense, Motuji? It’s a hoax. Machupo virus is only present in South America and is rare in humans. Also, India hasn’t recorded any known cases of it.

Acha ! I saw that on FB and WhatsApp, Chotu.

There you go! Social media has become a breeding ground for all kinds of bakwas news today. It’s time we did something about it. I’m eagerly waiting for WhatsApp’s response to the Centre’s demand to develop methods to find out where fake messages start and how they are spread on WhatsApp.

Kamaal hei! WhatsApp messages have fooled me many times and I want to see them sanitised for heaven’s sake!

Looks like there is some seriousness from the part of the government now, Motuji . The latest diktat (well, sort of) from the government came after IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels. In fact, the minister asked Daniels to set up an Indian unit and appoint a grievance officer to tackle people’s complaints over false news and rumours.

That’s a smart demand Chotu, though a tad delayed.

Basically, the government wants to bring WhatsApp and the content that spreads through the platform under Indian kanoon , Motu bhai , especially considering the reports that fake news and the tension they had triggered claimed, so far, over a dozen lives in India. This is big deal and should be nipped in the bud.

Can’t agree more, Chotu. But why regulations? Won’t better awareness work here?

You’re a nice soul, Motuji. But more demands are now coming from all parts of the world wanting regulators to step in to make social media accountable. That’s a sad reality, I’d say. But considering that companies like Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, have openly expressed their helplessness in tackling privacy breaches and spread of fake content, some tough measures have to be taken by the regulators, especially in countries like India where literacy levels are rather low and awareness about digital products and services is abysmally inadequate.

So, minister Prasad wants to make WhatsApp accountable for the falsehood it spreads?

Rightly so, Motuji. The government wants social media companies like WhatsApp to cooperate with law-enforcement agencies to stop misuse of their platforms. Also, they must sensitise users on the perils of fake news.

Badhiya! But will they comply?

Daniels said his team will cooperate. But I think the government’s demand for a technological tool from WhatsApp that can track the origin of fake messages is too much, even though minister Prasad thinks it does not take rocket science to locate a message being circulated in hundreds and thousands. There are no reports that suggest WhatsApp or any other social media platform is working on such a tool, which I am sure will fetch the wrath of users and privacy activists.

Sahi hai , but they can surely screen and block falsehood...

Yes. That’s what the telecom department has asked them, telcos and internet service firms to do in such critical situations. But there are already concerns that such provisions could be misused, even by the government, to suppress dissent and genuinely democratic, but unverified, information. First and foremost, we are a democracy. So, we must form these rules with a lot of caution, Motu bhai !

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