Who can stop India WhatsApp lynchings?


What messages are being sent?

The statement comes amid a spate of mob lynchings that have killed at least 17 people across India in the last three months. Media reports put the number of dead higher.

The violence has been blamed on rumours of child kidnappings, spread over WhatsApp, which have led people to attack strangers.

Police say it is proving hard to get people to believe that the messages are false.

In one of the most recent lynchings, in the north-eastern state of Tripura, the victim was a man employed by local government officials to go around villages with a loudspeaker, asking locals not to believe the rumours being spread on social media.

The Indian government said the company cannot evade “accountability and responsibility” for the content its users are sharing.

Why is the situation out of control?

The spate of attacks is increasingly alarming and shows no sign of abating.

India’s telecom regulatory commission says there are more than one billion active mobile phone connections in India, and millions of Indians have started getting online in a very short space of time.

For the vast majority of them, their first point of contact to the internet is through their mobile phone.

“Suddenly people from rural areas in particular are inundated with information and are unable to distinguish what is real from what is not. They tend to believe whatever is sent to them,” Pratik Sinha, the founder of fact-checking website Alt news, told the BBC in an earlier interview.

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