Being a WhatsApp group admin is considered a honour for many and a job title for a few. But being an admin can now possibly land you in jail.
In a joint order issued by Varanasi District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and Senior Superintendent of Police Nitin Tiwari, posting any factually incorrect, rumour or misleading information on a social media group could result in an FIR against the group administrator.
The order comes in wake of concerns being raised about social media misuse as fake news, morphed photographs and disturbing videos with fabricated local narratives can easily be circulated that can trigger tension and even communal rift in an area.
Keeping up with the order, directives are being issued to social media groups, WhatsApp and Facebook group administrators and members to avoid indulging in spreading fake news. If any statement is made by a group member which is fake, can cause religious disharmony, or rumour, the group admin must deny it on the group and remove the member from the group.
Further, the order indicates that the social media group administrators should be ready to bear the responsibility and ownership of the groups. The administrator must include only those members who are personally known to him or her. 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.
Even while the move is aimed towards curbing the spread of fake/old news, it does seem unfair that the admin is to be held responsible for post circulated by others. Moreover, the implementation of the order would also raise quite a few questions.