The local administration in Varanasi made a move in response to the concerns over misusing social media to publish fake news.
Varanasi District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and Superintendent of Police Nitin Tiwari issued a joint order that says that a FIR (first investigation report) would be filed against a group admin if the information is factually incorrect, misleading or is a rumour, which can trigger tension and communal discord in a specific area.
The order says several social media groups, including "news groups", were propagating inauthentic information and these messages were being circulated without a cross-checking of facts. The former has over 200 million users in India, while the latter has 166 million. While many of these WhatsApp messages are harmless - some may call them annoying - forwards, you would've no doubt received "news" stories that don't quite seem right, but you end up forwarding them to another WhatsApp group anyway because they seemed interesting.
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The order claims that the group admin will be responsible for any such post on 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. The group administrator must deny it on the group or they can remove the person who is found to be sharing any offensive posts. The group administrator of any social group can be out to jail upon the posting of an offensive post 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".
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Varanasi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It also directs that case under cyber crime law, Information Technology Act and IPC will be filed in case of violation of these guidelines. The orders of the Supreme Court and the high courts will be final while taking action.
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