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India asks telecoms to explore blocking Facebook, WhatsApp

The push comes after lynchings and beatings prompted by false WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp Mobile Application

The Indian government asked telecoms to look into methods for banning messaging services like WhatsApp.

NurPhoto

India's government reportedly asked telecoms to figure out how to block messaging apps if they are misused.

Telecom service providers, along with mobile and internet industry bodies, were asked to explore options for blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram in a July letter from India's department of telecommunication, according to Reuters.

A department official told Reuters that it was looking at at finding ways to block the apps during "emergency situations."

Facebook (which owns WhatsApp and Instagram) declined to comment, while Telegram and India's department of telecommunications didn't immediately responded to requests for comment.

The request follows a spate of deadly attacks caused by WhatsApp-spread misinformation. On July 1, five people were reportedly lynched in Dhule after a rumor circulated that they abducted children. At least 12 people have been beaten as a result of similar messages.

Last month, WhatsApp took steps to combat rumors by limiting message forwarding, introducing a feature that shows if messages have been forwarded and taking out full-page newspaper ads with tips for spotting fake news messages.

India is WhatApp's biggest market, with more than 200 million people using the service.

First published on Aug. 7 at 5:18 a.m. PDT.
Updated on Aug. 8 at 5:28 a.m. PDT: Adds that Facebook declined to comment.