Police in India have arrested 25 people after a man was lynched by a mob following rumours on Whatsapp that he was child abductor.
Mohammed Azam, who worked at a call centre, was killed in the southern state of Karnataka on Friday – the latest victim in a series of violent attacks against people accused of belonging to gangs trying to kidnap children.
At least 20 people have been killed in mostly rural villages across the country in lynchings instigated by false information distributed on WhatsApp, which has more than 200 million active users nationwide.
There have been more than 15 mob lynchings reported since May, prompting the Indian ministry of electronics and IT to call for WhatsApp – which is owned by Facebook – to do more to combat fake news.
Drastic steps have been taken in parts of the country recently in a bid to clampdown on the issue, including the switching off of internet services.
Police inspector Dileep Sagar said around 50 people were involved in the attack on Mr Azam, 27, and a relative, with the pair having been spotted offering chocolates to children in a remote village.
When one of the youngsters started crying, locals were alerted and accused the men of being child kidnappers.
The pair managed to flee the scene but the claims made it onto WhatsApp, which led to dozens of people swarming their car and dragging them from the vehicle to beat them with sticks and stones.
The relative was injured, as were at least 10 police officers who tried to dispel the violence.
Among the people arrested following the attack was the administrator of the WhatsApp group on which the messages about Mr Azam and his relative were spread.
It came just a week after WhatsApp launched an advertising campaign in Indian newspapers announcing an “education campaign” on how to spot fake news, adding it would also start labelling forwarded messages.
The company has not yet commented on the latest incident.
(c) Sky News 2018: Arrests made after mob lynch man targeted by ‘fake news’ on WhatsApp