In an interesting turn of event, Varanasi’s District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and Senior Superintendent of Police Nitin Tiwari have issued a joint order, according to which Admins of any WhatsApp or Facebook group can be arrested, if any offensive or fake news is being spread via their respective groups.
The order said: “There are several groups on social media which are named on newsgroups and also groups with other names which are propagating news and information which is not authentic. These are being forwarded without cross checking..”
As per the order issued, some of the content type which can face the wrath of the police, and can potentially lead to the arrest of group admins includes (but not limited to):
- Morphed images of celebrities, politicians
- Spreading fake news
- Sharing fabricated videos
- Content, messages which can ignite social unrest, communal tension
WhatsApp/Facebook Group Admin To Be Held Accountable
As per the order, the Group admin(s) would be held responsible for any type of content shared in the group. The admin ‘must’ delete the content, and report the sender of that message to the nearest police station.
In case the admin is not checking the messages or is out of Internet coverage area, then it will mean that the admin is guilty, and would be held accountable for the ‘damages’.
The order said, “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,”
As per the order, if any of the above-mentioned posts is circulated via these groups, then the relevant cyber-crime law, Information Technology Act and IPC acts would be used to arrest the admins.
The order also commands the admin to add only those persons, whom they personally know.
Varanasi DM Violates Delhi High Court Order?
Legally speaking, this order directly violates the Judiciary.
Last year, Delhi High Court had explicitly said that Whatsapp Group admins cannot be held liable for any content posted in the group.
While a hearing a case against a Whatsapp group admin, the Judge rightly observed, “I am unable to understand as to how the administrator of a group can be held liable for defamation, even if any, by the statements made by a member of the group.”
The Bench said, “When an online platform is created, the creator thereof cannot expect any of the members thereof to indulge in defamation, and defamatory statements made by any member of the group cannot make the administrator liable..”
Besides, there are more than 200 million Whatsapp users in India, who are part of millions of group. On Facebook alone, there are 620 million groups, all over the world.
It is still not clear, as to how Varanasi police will monitor each and every group, and how it will determine which news is fake, and which is offensive.
Do you think that District Magistrates and Police officials should violate judicial orders by issuing such headline-grabbing orders? Should Whatsapp and Facebook admins be jailed for content posted on their groups?
Do let us know by commenting right here!