WhatsApp and Facebook group admins beware. A rumour, a fake news story or even videos deemed offensive posted on the group can now land you in jail, says a new government order issued in Varanasi.
Responding to concerns over the misuse of social media to publish fake news, morphed photographs and videos with fabricated narratives that can trigger tension and an even communal rift in an area, the local administration in Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s constituency has come up with the order.
Issued jointly by the District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police, the order says that any factually incorrect post, rumour or misleading information on a social media group could result in a FIR against the group administrator.
Social media platforms allow users to create a group on which members can share views, photographs or videos. However, with no explicit law in place to govern these, the liability of group administrators has remained fuzzy. A Delhi High Court order in December last year, however, had ruled that admins cannot be held liable for content posted by any other member of the group.
Seemingly at odds with the ruling, the Varanasi order says social media group administrators should be ready to bear the responsibility of the groups.
The administrator must include only those members who are personally known to him or her. If any statement is made by a group member which is fake or can spark religious unrest, the group administrator must deny it on the group and remove the member from the group, the order says.
“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 order says. Such a post must also be reported to the nearest police station, it says.
Directives are being issued to social media groups, WhatsApp and Facebook group administrators and members, the order said. There are over 200 million WhatsApp users in India while Facebook has 166 million.