WhatsApp and Facebook admins are in danger of landing in jail if offensive posts containing fake news or rumors are circulated on their group. Varanasi’s district magistrate and police chief have decided to issue an order paving the path for this drastic action in view of the tension and communal strife such news could cause.
The joint decree states that an FIR can be filed against an administrator if factually incorrect rumors or misleading information is distributed within their social media group. Forwarding news, videos, and photos on WhatsApp without fact-checking is a fairly common practice in India, so the new rule could have far-reaching consequences if implemented.
According to the guidelines, admins should be ready to bear the responsibility and ownership of their groups, making sure to only include people whom they personally know. If they come across someone who is posting fake news which could result in religious disharmony or rumor-mongering, they will have to deny it and throw the person out.
Not only that, the administrator is also supposed to report these posts to the nearest police station so that action can be taken against the person spreading lies. If an admin doesn’t do so, they’ll be branded as guilty and action will be taken against them as well.
Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules is set to be charged under cyber crime laws, the Information Technology Act, and the Indian Penal Code. PTI reports that directives are now being sent to social media groups, in addition to Facebook and WhatsApp group members and admins.