Tuesday 12 November 2019

Government TD says Whatsapp messages should be monitored after viral M50 crash photo

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

A government TD says that Whatsapp should begin monitoring messages between users to make sure that ‘fake news’ and shocking photos are not disseminated.

Dublin Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said that Whatsapp, which is owned by Facebook, should start using technology to root out offensive and inappropriate images and messages before they’re reported.

“Yes I do,” he told Independent.ie.

“Basically what it comes down to is that if the companies aren’t willing to do this, there’s a need to look at a regulatory framework on a national or an EU level. But it’s difficult to accept anymore that the companies cannot build in the necessary safeguards against the widespread dissemination of such images. Are we prepared as a society to accept it?”

The TD also said that there may be a case for encryption between private messages to be suspended to allow companies like Facebook prevent the resending of fake news or shocking imagery.

“This is what we need to start thinking of as a society,” he said. “I think we need to look at the pros and cons. While there has to be a right for people to distribute information, there also has to be some type of regulation or consequences around it.”

Whatsapp’s encryption prevents hackers from accessing the content of messages. It also prevents the company or authorities from monitoring content.

Mr Brophy was speaking after the Gardai requested that people stop sharing graphic images of a tragic accident on a Dublin road yesterday.

The TD said that Whatsapp should prevent graphic images from being resent.

“Whatsapp should have made a quick decision to find a way of stopping the sending of such images,” he said.

“I also think that the company needs to look at the accounts of people sending images like that. People should be told when they sign up that if they disseminate such material that their accounts will be frozen.”

Mr Brophy was speaking just says after Whatsapp introduced new rules limiting the number of chats that a Whatsapp user can forward a message or photo to.

“All users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once, which will help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts,” said the company in a statment.

“We’ll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content.”

The company has introduced the rule following widespread reports of violence in India, Mexico and other countries linked to content passed on through mass-messaging on Whatsapp.

A spokesperson for Facebook was not immediately available to comment.

Online Editors

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