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How WhatsApp Fuels Fake News and Violence in India

The messaging app has become a dangerous weapon

By the time police arrived in the hamlet of Rainpada on July 1, 2018, the village council office was the scene of a massacre.

The bright blue shutters on the windows were splintered and the door was kicked in. Inside, files were strewn across the floor and the light green walls were splashed with blood. Five men were dead, beaten to death with fists, feet, sticks, and office furniture wielded by a raging mob.

The dead men—four in their late forties and one whose age remains unknown—had arrived in Rainpada earlier that day, at around 9 am, on a bus from Solapur, some 300 miles south, to attend a Sunday market. According to their families and police, all of them were members of a Nath Panthi Davari Gosavi tribe, a nomadic group that roams India’s western Maharashtra state, surviving mostly on alms. The men sat under a tree not far from where they had gotten off the bus and, as they ate, handed a biscuit to a young girl.

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