The residents of a village in southern India were acting on what they thought was the call of duty. They had received messages on WhatsApp that said Mohammed Azam and his friends, visitors to the village, were child abductors. It ended in Azam's death, brutally lynched by the villagers. But as it turned out, the messages were fake.
>> When we came to know about mob lynching, we were shocked. He got married in India in 2014 and he has 18-months-old boy now.>> Reuters' Euan Rocha recently visited the village of Murki.>> This is the spot where the five young men had gathered for a picnic on the fateful day.
The young men had just distributed a bunch of sweets to some school children on the road. A mob later confronted them out here and accused them of being child kidnappers and abductors, in an incident that later led to the death of one of those individuals.>> Digital literacy remains particularly low in India's remote villages, where shocking rumors of kidnappings had been circulating for some time.
Earlier this month, five men were beaten to death in another village, after they were also accused of being child abductors. And in a country where cows are considered sacred, vigilante mobs have also killed men suspected of smuggling the animals for slaughter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on WhatsApp to curb the spread of fake news.
>> WhatsApp has recently begun a nationwide campaign. They're taking out full-page advertisements in newspapers across the country, warning about the perils of fake news, warning people how to recognize when a message is forwarded. Police have also begun an awareness campaign across the country to warn people that these messages around child abductions are fake, to try and reduce these incidents of mob lynchings across the country.
>> Just last week, WhatsApp changed some of its message forwarding functions in an attempt to slow down the spread of rumors on the platform. In Azam's case, some villagers say they didn't see the messages, only reports of child abductors by word of mouth and local media. Still, police say that these reports too were all false.