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WhatsApp builds system to comply with India’s payments data storage norms

NEW DELHI: Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp said on Tuesday it has built a system that stores payments-related data locally in India, in a bid to comply with a central bank directive that all such data should, within six months, be stored only in the country.

WhatsApp rolled out a test of its payment system in India, its biggest market by users, earlier this year.

“In response to India’s payments data circular, we’ve built a system that stores payments-related data locally in India,” WhatsApp said in an emailed statement.

The Reserve Bank in April said all payments data should be stored only in India for “unfettered supervisory access”, a decision that has led to intense lobbying by global firms that worry it would cost them millions of dollars.

In July this year, India had asked WhatsApp messenger to take steps to prevent the circulation of false texts and provocative content that have led to a series of lynchings and mob beatings across the country in the past few months.

With more than 200 million users in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market in the world, false news and videos circulating on the messaging app have become a new headache for social media giant Facebook, already grappling with a privacy scandal.

So far this year, false messages about child abductors on WhatsApp have helped to trigger mass beatings of more than a dozen people in India – at least three of whom have died.

In addition, five people were beaten to death by a mob on Sunday in a fresh incident of lynching in India’s western state of Maharashtra on suspicions that they were child abductors.

“Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken,” India’s IT ministry had said in a statement.

The ministry said law enforcement authorities were taking steps to apprehend culprits responsible for the killings but the repeated flow of fake news messages on WhatsApp was also a matter of deep concern.

It also said that messaging platform “cannot evade accountability and responsibility” when such services are abused by users to spread misinformation.

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