The Narendra Modi government has taken a firm step to curb fake news in the wake of a spate of lynchings — apparently triggered by rumours on WhatsApp — warning the popular messaging platform to be mindful of the content that gets spread. 

In a stern statement on Tuesday, the ministry of electronics and IT asked the Facebook-owned messaging platform to prevent the proliferation of “irresponsible and explosive messages” that have the power to cause discord and violence. 

The government of India missive comes after mob violence linked to provocative WhatsApp messages were reported from at least eight states, including Karnataka, Assam, Maharashtra and Gujarat. On Sunday, five people were lynched in Dhule district of Maharashtra on the suspicion of being child-lifters. Similar incidents were reported recently from Assam and Tripura too.  

According to reports, over 30 people have been killed by lynch mobs in the past year across 10 states after rumours of child-liftinig spread through WhatsApp. 

Expressing its "deep disapproval", the government said that WhatsApp cannot be absolved of its accountability and responsibility to prevent rumour-mongering.  

WhatsApp on its part shared the government's concern and stated that it was "horrified by these terrible acts of violence", and called for a joint and concerted effort by the government, civil society and technology companies.  

WhatsApp said the company was working on product controls, digital literacy, fact-checking advocacy and trying to respond quickly and proactively to the misuse of the messaging platform. 

“WhatsApp cares deeply about people’s safety and their ability to freely communicate. We don’t want our services used to spread harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address. For example, we recently made a number of updates to our group chats and will be stepping up efforts to help people spot false news and hoaxes,” the company said. 

The company also encouraged the use of the messaging platform by law enforcement agencies and revealed that it will soon start an engagement and programme with the security agencies in India to make them conversant with the use of the platform for the prevention of crime.