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Since mid-April, fake messages circulating on WhatsApp claimed at least seven lives in India.
The last two victims were two men whom they accused of kidnapping children in various messages distributed through the application.
Nilotpal Das, a sound engineer, and Abijeet Nath, a digital artist, lived in Guwahati, the largest city in Assam, one of the 29 states in the country.
According to the police, they were attacked when they stopped with the car to ask directions in a town in the north of the region.
A crowd hit them until they died .
In a video that was distributed this weekend you can see one of the men pleading for his life, without managing to contain the crowd.
Authorities say they are having serious problems discrediting rumors and defamatory messages on social networks and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, which is used by more than 200 million people in the Asian nation.
For now, 16 people have been arrested.
On Sunday, a group of students and activists marched through the streets of Guwahati to demonstrate against the killings.
What did the rumors say?
The WhatsApp message incriminating Nilotpal Das and Abijeet Nath was a video that went viral and showed the kidnapping of a child.
In Bangalore – the fifth most populous city in India, where two people died last month from similar circumstances, a local resident showed the video on his phone to BBC journalist Dan Johnson.
It showed two men on a motorcycle approaching a group of children. One of them grabs a child and they leave.
But the video is not real . In fact, it was not even recorded in India.
An unedited version shows that it is a film that was created to promote the safety of children in Pakistan and raise awareness about the problems of express kidnappings in the country.
The last segment of the video, in which one of the men is seen holding a poster explaining the accident, was eliminated in the version that was distributed by WhatsApp in India.
In that edited video there are text messages that say that there are “kidnappers” who are coming to the city to kidnap children.
Through the platform it spread massively and the panic increased when some regional communication channels gave it credibility.
When the two men arrived in the village, speaking another language and immediately identifying themselves as outsiders, some residents identified them as potential kidnappers and attacked them.
What are the authorities doing?
“When the rumors began to circulate through social networks, it took a while to stop them completely,” Mukesh Agarwal, a senior police officer, told the BBC.
He also assured that the authorities are trying to avoid spreading such messages.
In other cities of the Asian country, agents are alerting residents about false messages linked to child abductions.
In May, the police marched with residents of the city of Hyderabad, in the south of the country, to the cry of “do not believe the rumors” , after the death of a transgender woman, murdered as a result of false rumors that made her responsible of child trafficking.
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where dozens of incidents linked to this phenomenon were reported in recent months, awareness campaigns were also launched to counter the rumors.
In other states, such as Karnataka, the police set up control rooms from where they monitor social media posts and control messages and videos that are shared.
In Telengana, where there were also problems, warning messages are being issued and several people who contributed to the circulation of a viral video were arrested.
The agents continue to look for other incidents linked to false messages on the Internet about the kidnapping of minors in the country, in which half a million children disappear each year.
Deaths linked to WhatsApp messages in India
A b ril: A man in the state of Tamil Nadu was beaten to death by a crowd when he was walking down the street.
May or :
- A 55-year-old woman in Tamil Nadu was lynched for giving candy to children. The police arrested 30 people.
- A man in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh suffered a lynching for speaking Hindi and not the local language, Telugu.
- A man in Telengana was killed by a crowd as he entered a mango orchard at night.
- Another man in Telengana was lynched when he visited a village where relatives lived.
- A man in the southern city of Bangalore, who had just moved there, was tied with a rope and beaten to death with cricket bats.
- A transgender woman was murdered in Hyderabad.
June : Two men were lynched in the northern state of Assam after stopping with the car to ask for directions.