Political parties abuse WhatsApp | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 07, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 07, 2019

INDIA GENERAL ELECTION

Political parties abuse WhatsApp

Says top executive of messaging app

India's political parties have been abusing Facebook Inc's popular messaging service WhatsApp ahead of the country's general election and the company has warned them not to do so, a senior executive said yesterday.

WhatsApp declined to name the parties or give the exact nature of the alleged misuse, but there is mounting concern in India that party workers could abuse the platform by using automated tools for mass messaging, or spread false news to sway voters.

The messaging app has become a key campaign tool used widely by workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party, which accuse each other of propagating fake news while denying they do so themselves.

"We have seen a number of parties attempt to use WhatsApp in ways that it was not intended, and our firm message to them is that using it in that way will result in bans of our service," Carl Woog, head of communications for WhatsApp, told reporters.

The next general election must be held by May.

The platform's challenges in India are not unique. It was flooded with falsehoods and conspiracy theories ahead of the October election in Brazil, raising concerns that it was being used to distort the political debate.

India is WhatsApp's biggest market with more than 200 million users.

Ahead of state polls in the western state of Rajasthan in December, BJP and Congress workers showed a Reuters reporter dozens of WhatsApp groups they belonged to and used for campaigning.

Woog said they had engaged with political parties to explain the company's view that the app was not a "broadcast platform".

"We are trying to be very clear going into the election that there is abuse on WhatsApp. We are working very hard to identify it and prevent it as soon as possible," he said.

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