WhatsApp Redefines Truth?

“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”.

– Cristian Lous Lange

Technology, as we speak of in today’s terms, is a very useful yet a dangerous tool that is used to spoon feed to people, from toddlers to adults. It is a magnet which makes you bow down to it. India is the second largest populated country in the world and thus the most vulnerable to the side effects of technology. India is home to a very large media industry with over 800 million mobile phone users. With these figures comes great responsibility and a tornado of content and information which is being circulated and passed onto the citizens without any regulatory measures. The most basic and widely provided information based medium is WhatsApp. India is the largest market for Whatsapp with over 200 million users and is termed to be the single internet-based service available to the people of the country. WhatsApp has been found to be the first point of contact with mobile phones for a vast majority of Indians.

This leads us to the content tornado which refurbishes the information from a seed to a giant tree in no time and confuses the people from knowing what is real and what is not. Indian citizens have been a target to a lot of the false claims, accusations, rumors, offensive content etc. in the past with no strict actions to control it. They are constantly dragged into believing false claims and spreading incorrect messages. But the extreme users or the most loyal ones with the power of the internet in their hands have gone all out of their way to start what we call as Whatsapp lynchings. According to the recent reports, 17 people have been targeted and killed because of these false Whatsapp messages. A few of them included threats of child trafficking and kidnapping rumors which later resulted in people being murdered. The violence took a face in false claims and rumors through Whatsapp in India which later became a huge concern for the Indian Government.

Now the question stays the same, who spreads these rumors and who is responsible for these incidents? Basically, who do we blame?

The Indian government and Whatsapp worked to start labelling forwarded messages and also made a deal to conduct a public safety social campaign in regards to spread awareness about these false messages and against these lynchings. But did they even think about more than half of the illiterate population which does not yet know the hypocritical game technology plays with them? Most of the uneducated population tends to give in their privacy to social media and start believing the information which has been passed to them. Content on Whatsapp which is forwarded has no time records, it is outdated and not legitimate which proves it to be vague and certainly not correct. But people still believe those messages and have a tendency to share them amongst their peers.

Whatsapp responded by saying it will work better with the government and local civil bodies. Labelling the messages as forwarded is one way to go but that will not enable people to know the array of people who have sent that message or who the original source is. It certainly should do more with regards to this because WhatsApp will eventually lose its market and its technology will backfire if people start changing their mindset towards Whatsapp being the medium of negative and incorrect information. It should provide the civil bodies more information and help them conduct regulatory measures towards these flagged messages leading to lynchings.

Also, Whatsapp creates a chain of people who are unintentionally connected when it comes to forwarded messages, this enables fast data sharing, thus leading to cases like CBSE 10th and 12th Board exam paper leaks, where police is taking weeks to find the culprits and lakhs of students are waiting and suffering because of a mere Whatsapp message. An effective use of technology can still help the government exercise control over the incorrect and unreliable information but keeping in mind the privacy of the users. But again as it has been said that privacy on the internet is an oxymoron, we have a solution to the problem but in the vast ocean that is technology, we forget to look for it.

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