WhatsApp is a very popular messaging platform. While it provides the billions of people who use it with a great platform for not only checking up on each other, but also sharing some of the latest happenings across the globe, it has – recently – turned into one of the leading platforms when it comes to spreading fake news.
Just like its parent company Facebook, WhatsApp has been used on numerous occasions to spread different sets of news. Some are true, but others are fake. There have been calls for Facebook to find ways of dealing with the spread of fake news on its major social networking platform and while the company has yet to curb this issue fully, folks in India might just have found a way to completely kill the spreading of fake news in the region.
Apparently, spreading or sharing fake news – including rumors – or even videos that fit the “offensive” bill in a WhatsApp or Facebook group might land you in jail. This is an official government order that has been issued in Varanasi, a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. This order is aimed at curbing the growing misuse of social media where fake news, morphed photos and videos containing fabricated stories that can easily lead to tension or even rifts in the community are becoming too common.
The statement was issued by the District Magistrate, who was also supported by Senior Police Superintendent, and it says that any factually incorrect publication (post), misleading information or rumor on social media groups may lead to an FIR (First Information Report) against the admin(s) of the respective groups.
WhatsApp and Facebook allow people to create groups, with the creators of these groups automatically taking up the post of a group administrator. Since there’s no law in place to govern these groups and what they actually do, the liability of the group admin has remained unclear. But from now henceforth, they’ll be responsible for what group members post in the groups.
According to the order, WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media group admins must only allow people they know personally into the groups. In addition, any fake news or rumor posted in the group and has the capacity to cause unrest must be condemned by the group admin and subsequently removed from the group, including the person who posted it.
In the event that the group admin takes no action against the person spreading the rumor or fake news, s/he will be considered guilty and as such, any action taken will be directed towards the admin. The offensive post must also be reported to a nearby police station, the report adds.
Apparently, the order said that directives will be issued to all WhatsApp and Facebook group (and other social media platforms) admins, including their members. So far, this order is only applicable in Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, which is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but it could make its way to other regions sooner or later.
What do you think about this move to hold social media group admins accountable for all “baseless” posts shared in their groups? Let us know in your comments below.