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A temple in Tamil Nadu, a Southern state in India where fake news is spreading on WhatsApp. Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Murderous mobs have killed multiple innocent people in India after they were misled by fake news on WhatsApp, reports the New York Times.

The big picture: WhatsApp has 250 million users in India, many of whom live in rural areas and are new to technology. Those rural users are often susceptible to being fooled by false or fear-mongering information that's quickly forwarded or shared to large groups on WhatsApp.

Details, per the Times:

  • One woman and her family were stopped, stripped naked and beaten by a mob while they were driving to a temple in Tamil Nadu, a Southern state in India.
  • The mob that attacked the family falsely believed them to be "child lifters." The woman died as a result of the attack, and her son-in-law remains in a coma.
  • Police have arrested 46 people for the attack on the woman's family and are still looking for an additional 74.
  • Another attack occurred on Friday. A software engineer was killed for giving chocolates to schoolchildren.
  • "WhatsApp said it was horrified by the killings," the Times reports. "Last week, it began labeling all forwarded messages. It also took out newspaper ads to educate people about misinformation and pledged to work more closely with police and independent fact-checkers."

The bottom line: Much of the fake information that's pushing mobs to murder is about children being harmed, which is a real concern in India. But social messaging apps are helping rumors and false information spread so quickly that companies and authorities are struggling to keep order.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

9 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.