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Social Media Companies Like Facebook, WhatsApp Get Fortnightly Meet Summons

The government has started fortnightly meetings with social media companies Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google to check spread of misinformation and fake news on their platforms ahead of the general elections.

The home ministry summoned officials of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Google again this month to enquire about their appointment of grievance redressal officers for India, people familiar with the developments told ET.

Google has sought an extension of deadline to November 30. The ministry, at a meeting last month presided over by home secretary Rajiv Gauba, had asked them to appoint these officers by November 9.

Google and Facebook did not respond to emails seeking comment till the time of going to press. In a response to ET’s queries, a Twitter spokesperson said it “appreciates the importance of the work being undertaken by the ministry of home affairs, and thanks them for their inclusive engagement.”

“Discussions with the ministry are ongoing and we have no further details to share at this time. We care deeply about the issues of disinformation and nefarious manipulation of our platform, and their potentially harmful effects,” the spokesperson added.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said the company does not have any details to share at this time. WhatsApp vice-president Chris Daniels told ET last month that by year-end, the company’s India unit will have a head who will build up a local team to serve users and work with partners and the government.

The company is also hiring locally for senior roles in partnerships, operations, policy and legal teams. WhatsApp appointed US-based Komal Lahiri as grievance officer for India in September.

The home ministry asked these companies last month to develop monitoring and filtering mechanisms to check content that could be used to spread rumours and promote social unrest, besides appointing grievance redressal officers. In the run-up to Rajasthan elections, WhatsApp and Digital Empowerment Foundation held training sessions for community leaders in Jaipur to combat misinformation, a company statement had said.

WhatsApp and the foundation have focused on such sessions in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, which will be followed by Telangana – states where elections are under way. The teams will also cover key states such as West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and Jharkhand by March 2019, it added. – krishka

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