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14 Apr 2024, Edition - 3197, Sunday

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Is WhatsApp turning into a rumour factory?

Covai Post Network


A two-year-old forecast of NASA that cautioned a cyclone in Chennai on November 22 went viral on WhatsApp triggering fear and panic among the Chennaiites. This came as a jolt just as they were slowly recuperating the extensive damage the metro had suffered due to a low pressure that claimed several lives.

The message purportedly from NASA was doing rounds in all whatsApp groups with people expressing concern, calling up relatives and advising them to relocate so that they could be safe. It then took a sane soul to dwell deep into the World Wide Web to unearth that this message was published by the NASA two long years before.

With 40 million Facebook and 16 million Twitter and WhatsApp users in India, social media has emerged as powerful platforms for forming opinions but on the flip side it is now largely serving as a platform that generates rumours for mischief mongers. With no restriction on uploading, sharing and forwarding images, social media has now turned into an open platform for misuse.

Member of Data Security Council of India, SN Ravichandran told Covai Post that most often public are irresponsible when it comes to such matters. They don’t take effort to cross check the authenticity of the message, they forward it mindlessly. People forward text messages, images and voice messages and the chain does rounds endlessly. There are certain messages that are doing rounds on the what’s app groups for years, he exclaimed.

Many a time even the scribes fall prey to the messages on what’s app groups. “It is very important to understand that what’s app is an information tool and not a source,”said a senior journalist. The tool has made availability of information quicker but on the other side one needs to confirm on how authentic the information is before it is taken to the mass through the media, the scribe added.

The call recording app that is available on smart phones has squashed all privacy when it comes to telephonic conversations. Conversations are recorded without the consent of the caller and later circulated on whatsApp for all purposes, be it to blackmail, threaten or simply deceive people, said the Anchor of Data Security Council of India, Coimbatore Chapter, Balaji Raju.

Even those who resort to ending their lives record the suicide note (read video) on the mobiles and forward it to all before they die. As per law, Section 66A of IT Act was the only available section to penalise those sending offensive messages in the cyber space. But now after the Apex Court struck it off, the definition of offences under this provision is open-ended and undefined and hence the offenders post and share anything as they please, cyber expert Ravichandran further added.

The absence of expertise in the police department to handle cyber crime related cases has resulted in not many cases getting registered, said Advocate M Sundarakadeswaran. In a case where money was siphoned off from a bank account through the internet, the police had to keep the case pending inordinately because they lacked expertise to handle the case, he added.

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