Journalists, minorities, women and vulnerable sections of the society are often added to such groups and harassed with derogatory remarks and false statements
Indian civil society has written an open letter urging Internet-based messaging service providers like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and others to modify their platforms so users can no longer be added to group chats without express user permission."In the absence of a mechanism to prevent themselves from being added to
groups that they would not like to participate in, users have no option but to manually exit the groups," the letter said.
The signatories to the letter include Software Freedom Law Centre, India, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Centre for Internet and Society, Society for Knowledge Commons, Prof. Rahul De, Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor in ICT for Sustainable Economic Development, IIM Bangalore, Faisal Farooqui, CEO, Mouthshut.com, Geeta Seshu, independent journalist and Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor, The Caravan.
Addressed to the founders or owners of WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, Signal, and Tencent Holdings in China, which owns Wechat, the letter further says that not being asked before being added to a group means people can forcefully exposed to a range of subjectively undesirable content that they would never have signed up for otherwise.
The lack of choice also means that individuals can be exposed to harassment, intimidation and disparagement.
Journalists, minorities, women and vulnerable sections of the society are often added to such groups and harassed with derogatory remarks and false statements.
"While blocking malicious actors can usually help mitigate the damage to an extent, on online messaging services like yours, they are able to easily circumvent blocks by creating groups and adding their targets to these groups. The problem is only made worse from there as personal information like phone numbers, user IDs and photographs are shared with a large number of users, which opens the doors to even greater abuse," the letter added.They have urged the messaging platforms to fix these issues and take corrective measures at the earliest.