New Delhi (CNN)Indian police arrested 30 people after a man was lynched by a huge mob incensed by rumors of child kidnapping spread on WhatsApp.
In the latest in a spate of mob killings linked to the Facebook-owned messaging app, Mohammed Azam was attacked, along with three friends in Bidar, in the southern state of Karnataka Friday. His friends were severely injured and are in stable condition in hospital.
According to H. R. Mahadev, Bidar district deputy commissioner, the men were driving in the area when they stopped at the roadside to hand out chocolates to schoolgirls.
One of the children screamed, alarming locals who -- inspired by rumors spread on social media about child kidnapping gangs -- confronted the men and accused them of attempting to abduct the children.
"Why were they handing out chocolates to schoolgirls, we don't know," Mahadev said. "Whether or not they had bad intention, we don't know that yet. We are still investigating."
The men fled, but were attacked by a mob of around 2,000 people a few miles ahead after messages were sent about them on WhatsApp. The vehicle they were traveling in skidded off the road, after which the mob dragged them out of the car and beat them.
Thirty people have been arrested in connection with the case, 28 for being involved in the violence, and two for spreading false rumors, including the admin of a local WhatsApp group.
G. Parameshwara, deputy chief minister of Karnataka, said he condemned the "mob lynching" and urged police to "take swift action against perpetrators."
"I urge people not to pay heed to rumors and take the law into your hands. Report suspicious activity to the police," he said.
Last week, WhatsApp took out full-page ads in leading English and Hindi newspapers, giving readers 10 tips to spot messages that might be fake.
"Fake news often goes viral" one of the adverts read. "Just because a message is shared many times does not make it true."
The company told CNN it would translate the ads to run in local newspapers in nine Indian states, many of which speak different languages.
WhatsApp's anti-fake news campaign came in the wake of a mob in Maharashtra lynching five people on July 1 after messages spread on the app claimed they were child abductors.
The men, poor agricultural workers from a nearby district, were attacked by a group of about 40 people after they arrived by bus. They were surrounded by a crowd of almost 3,000 people.
WhatsApp messages warning residents of possible kidnappers had been circulating in the area for 10 to 15 days.