At least 20 people have been killed in mostly rural villages across India in attacks sparked by false information distributed on WhatsApp.
India’s government has asked WhatsApp to take urgent steps to prevent the spread of rumours following the series of deadly mob unrest.
The company said it would limit media messages to being shared to five chats in India, and also remove the quick forward function.
Indians forward more messages and media – sending them directly on rather than responding or rewriting a message – than any other nation.
The practice has led to the wild spread of rumours of child kidnap, sparking a number of attacks on innocent people in the last few months.
Three people have been beaten to death in recent weeks. One man, Satish Bhaykre, 21, was beaten by a mob after being wrong accused of child kidnap.
The victims were innocent people accused of belonging to gangs trying to abduct children.
India’s ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) said WhatsApp “cannot evade accountability and responsibility” after the killings were linked to “irresponsible and explosive messages” circulating on its platform.
“Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the (sic) WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken,” the ministry said in a statement.