At least two WhatsApp groups announced the demise of a yesteryear actor, prompting hundreds of people offering condolences on the messenger service.
Lucknow: Worried by the faster than usual spread of “fake news” disseminated by several “WhatsApp news agencies” and picked by TV channels without verification, the Uttar Pradesh police is figuring out measures to tackle the “threat” posed by the sharing of such content.
A senior officer said by the time these “fake news” are dealt with, “the damage is already done”, citing the example of a recent report picked by TV channels about the Adityanath government scrapping reservation in the state’s private medical colleges.
“It took us almost four hours to realise that this was a fake news, apparently planted to malign the government and finally a denial was issued but the damage had already been done,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity.
Another “news” put out by a WhatsApp group claimed that the state government was planning to train children and make them “employment ready”, completely disregarding the fact that child labour is banned in the country.
In some cases, WhatsApp groups have announced transfers and termination of officials when no such decision was taken at the government level. The officer further cited WhatsApp reports that circulated “minor clashes” as “riots”. At least two WhatsApp groups announced the demise of a yesteryear actor, prompting hundreds of people offering condolences on the messenger service.
The state police claims to have identified “about three dozen such WhatsApp groups in the state capital alone” that put out news faster than the bonafide news agencies.
“These groups create confusion because most of their news instantly become ‘breaking news’ on channels that almost never verify them. The problem is that there are no rules to regulate the messenger service and its content,” the officer said.
The officer said legal experts have been consulted to find ways to check the menace with some suggesting taking action against the “groups’ administrators”.
“We will be consulting IT experts and our counterparts at the Centre so that we can make the administrator accountable for the content posted in the group. We are also verifying the news agencies that are being run through WhatsApp in major cities,” the officer disclosed.