Facebook/WhatsApp Group Admins could go to jail for offensive posts

WhatsApp Group Admins

“With great power comes great responsibility.” If these lines meant nothing to you earlier, that changes today and if you have the privilege of being one of the many Facebook/WhatsApp Group Admins, life is about to get tougher as you could land in jail if fake news or rumours are being circulated on your group.

District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and Senior Superintendent of Police, Nitin Tiwari issued a joint order that any misleading piece of news, rumours or factually incorrect article on a social media group could result in an FIR against the Group Admin.

“There are several groups on social media which are named on news groups and also groups with other names which are propagating news and information which is not authentic. These are being forwarded without cross checking,” it says in the joint order as reported by Hindustan Times today.

Fake news and rumours have been a persistent blemish upon the sophisticated social media platforms that have hardly had any luck in getting rid of fake news articles. Facebook and Google have been struggling to rein in such unscrupulous sources and the spread of fake news on their platform, introducing a number of remedial measures, yet fake news manages to poke its head out time and again.

In India, WhatsApp messages with harsh communal undertones, photoshopped images aimed at fueling political propaganda and baseless rumours are shared widely without verifying sources, and leads to misinformed masses and has the power to incite communal tension among people.

WhatsApp Group Admins
Post Demonetization, one such rumour that began circulating on
WhatsApp, was about a GPS chip embedded in the new 2000 INR currency notes. Image Source

This move could potentially prevent sharing of such misinformation, and thwart widespread sharing of such articles by holding the Facebook/WhatsApp Group Admins.

Facebook/WhatsApp Group Admins exercise control over adding new members, removing members or controlling what is posted in the Group, and this new joint order states that social media admins should shoulder the responsibility and ownership for the posts and messages that are shared in their respective Groups.

“In the event of inaction from the group admin, he or she will be considered guilty and action will be taken against the group admin,” the report further states as reported by the Hindustan Times.

Furthermore, the Facebook /WhatsApp Group admin is also expected to report objectionable/fake news articles shared by a member to the police.