A mob in India recently lynched five people after rumors that were spread over WhatsApp prompted speculation that the individuals were child abductors, according to reports by The Washington Post and CNN.
Police reports have noticed that the victims were killed in the Dhule district of the western state of Maharashtra Sunday morning after locals became aware of the allegations that the victims were a gang of child lifters. The messages had been circulating for 10 to 15 days by the time of the murders.
The Dhule police have confirmed that 23 people connected to the incident have been arrested, with 40 more accused individuals being sought at this time. Those arrested have been charged with rioting and murdering the five men, who were agricultural workers from a nearby district.
Given its accessibility and end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp is often believed to be used as a tool for nefarious activities. Last week, three murders in Tripura were directly tied to messages in related to a separate child abduction. Adding to the trend, two men were lynched on June 8 after rumors were spread on WhatsApp regarding yet another child being held hostage.
Another incident, which occurred in Hyderabad, resulted in the murder of a transgender woman after locals decided to act upon rumors on the app which claimed the woman was trafficking children.
Given this rise in hysteria, ads are currently running in Dhule to raise awareness about the influx of false reports. Additionally, on Tuesday, the Indian government directed WhatsApp to crack down on the proliferation of “irresponsible and explosive messages.”