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WhatsApp admins to be legally responsible for offensive content


If you are a WhatsApp group admin, here’s why you must think through your role. According to an order by the District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra (Varanasi)  and Senior Superintendent of Police Nitin Tiwari, you could land in jail for offensive content. Varanasi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a report by PTI, it has been made clear that any factually incorrect rumour or misleading information on a social media group could result in an FIR against the group administrator. The report said,

There are several groups on social media that are named on news groups and also groups with other names that are propagating news and information that is not authentic. These are being forwarded without cross checking.

The report further added that every admin in a group is directed that any statement or post that can affect religious sentiments will be penalised. The order, issued yesterday, says that while freedom of expression on social media is important, it also comes with a responsibility.

With over 200 million WhatsApp users in India, the report indicates that every social media group administrator should be ready to bear responsibility and ownership of the group. The admins are advised to add individuals who are known to them personally to avoid any religious disharmony, rumour etc. Should any such situation arise, the admin is expected to remove such members from the group.

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.

When such a post or rumour is being circulated, the post must be reported legally to the nearby police station, and the individual will be under the radar. It also directs that cases under the cyber crime law, Information Technology Act, and IPC be filed in the case of violation of these guidelines.

The order also makes it clear that orders of the Supreme Court and various high courts will be considered while initiating action. In an age where social media is booming, filtering content will imply thoughtful execution by the WhatsApp administrators.

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