As hoax-fueled lynchings continue in India, Whatsapp puts limits on video-forwarding

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Until Facebook and its subsidiaries move away from an advertising-based business model we’ll only see half-measures at best to combat these problems.


I can’t see an alternative they would consider - this is a helluva problem though

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Membership fees. Facebook currently has over 2-billion MAUs. Charge a rock-bottom $1/month/user and that’s $24-billion in revenue per year (in 2017 total revenue was $27-billion, so bump the subscription fee up to $1.50/month and they’re ahead).

You’re correct that they wouldn’t consider that, though. Charging money for a service creates an expectation of higher quality, which in turn implies higher costs. FB is not going to spend one dime more than it has to on moderation and security.


There’s no way Whatsapp could switch to a paid model and retain the Indian market. Whatsapp would go in the tank in India and everyone would switch to Viber or something.

Seriously… For the hellscape that FB is when it first turned up on the scene I was hey you know this one seems useful enough but if they would let me give them even $5/month just to be ad and data collection free I would be onboard. But that isn’t gonna happen.


um, you have a mob violence problem, not a fake news problem

well okay both are problems but if the “go to” solution is mob lynchings even if the news wasn’t fake, then there is a core cultural problem?

(maybe distribute a fake video of a mob being arrested and imprisoned for lynching someone?)


You’re correct about Whatsapp.

Maybe the solution is more simple in cases involving lynching or other mass hysterias ending in deaths. Every time there’s a lynching based on a particular viral hoax news item the Indian government can request the history of the spread of each item from the perpetrators back to the source. I’m sure all this data is hoarded and analysed by the company anyhow. After that charge anyone who forwarded the item a set fine, the proceeds going to the families of the deceased. Those who can’t pay the fine lose their Whatsapp account for two years. Additional fines can be levied on those identified as the “patient zeroes” of the viral epidemic. Whatsapp accounts require a mobile phone number to use so it shouldn’t be difficult to track and people who forwarded a piece of fake news that resulted in someone’s death.

Not that this would happen, either. In India, FB would end up losing hundreds of thousands of users in each incident so the company would lobby and bribe the government to make sure such legislation was never enacted.


Once the government has the power to do this, how long do you think it will be before they start using it against people spreading true stories about government corruption and abuse of power?

Communal violence happens all the time in India, and happened all the time before cellphones, too. Their current PM aided and abetted a mob massacre of Muslims when he was a state level official. The government seldom, if ever, takes strong steps against it. Blaming this on social media is completely missing the point.


Not very long, especially considering the Indian government is already spreading fake news on its own behalf. A proper law would restrict punishments to cases resulting in deaths, or more specific to lynchings. But as you say, if they were to enact such a law they’d make sure it would be as broad as possible so they could abuse it.

I’m not blaming it on social media. Someone asked how to mitigate the problem of social media as an accelerant for mob violence in India, and this might be a solution worth exploring if either the Indian government or Facebook were interested in actual solutions.


I’d be curious to know what the relationship between the lynchers and lynchees in these cases is.

It normally takes more than a video, even a seemingly plausible one, to make it worth the trouble of joining a Lynch mob(or viable to stir one up). Even the pizzagate idiot didn’t manage to recruit friends.

So, are these cases of people with a collection of deep but somewhat disorganized grievance finding the solid excuse they’ve been looking for for a long while? Are they groups already engaged in some amount of vigilante activity because of very, very, pessimistic assessment of the local police and judicial entities; just processing a new piece of evidence? Overtly cynical use of a pretext to indulge in violence they have interest in for other reasons?

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