A mob killed five people suspecting them to be part of a gang of “child lifters” in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. On June 26, a mob beat to death a 40-year-old woman in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad on the suspicion that she was a kidnapper. Three people, including a man hired by the government to spread awareness against rumours of child-lifting, were killed in Tripura at the end of June.
These assaults were alleged to be based on Forwards and messages on social media apps. Internet penetration has ensured that every villager in India carries WhatsApp in their pockets. After these incidents, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had asked the messaging platform to initiate measures to prevent the spread of “explosive messages” and warned it against accountability and responsibility.
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So, the updated version of WhatsApp includes a label if the message is forwarded. So, the next time you get a message asking you to drink honey every morning, check whether it is genuine or simple a forward, before you start believing them immediately.
But is the fault only of WhatsApp? Is it not true that WhatsApp is like any other technology? Technology is a double-edged sword, and it depends on the people how you use it.
The forwards alleging people to be kidnappers or criminals found ground because there is a narrative of discord and fragmentation in the present dystopian time. Before believing every forward to be true, we need to check the veracity of the information.
A messaging application such as WhatsApp, with a large user base and an ability to instantly and widely share information, has been arraigned as a co-conspirator to these tragedies. It is easy to get swept in this wave of social panic and draw neat narratives which ignore factual complexity.
Should not law and order be the responsible of the government, and not blamed on technology. Those mob lynchings were triggered because people inherently believed in the malafide intentions of people. WhatsApp just turned out to be the medum.. Only attitudinal change can bring in peace and prosperity.
Making a scapegoat of WhatsApp is just the easy way out.