The problem is that police cannot track the person who generates such objectionable messages on WhatsApp

WhatsApp group admin You are an intermediary and heres what you need to knowImage for representation/pixabay
Flix Saturday, October 10, 2015 - 16:14

Is your WhatsApp flooded with messages from your ‘kindergarten’ group to your ‘best friends forever’ groups? And are you the admin of dozens of them? Then, beware of all the messages that keep getting posted or else you might be the next one to get in trouble.

The police have said that group administrators will be charged and investigated in cases of forwarding or distributing rumoured messages or objectionable content on the groups.

On Thursday, in Latur district in Maharashtra, the police arrested one administrator and three members of a WhatsApp group for posting objectionable content which included video clips. 

Why should admins be held responsible instead of the member who posts the message?

According to the Indian IT Act, if you are an admin of a group, you are the 'intermediary' who created a service and you have certain obligations under the Act. 

A major loophole on the platform is that administrators cannot regulate the content which gets posted on the group and cannot even delete a post from the group.

But the law was created in 2000, amended in 2008 and WhatsApp started in 2009. (You get the drift).

Vijay Mukhi, cyber expert says that one of the problems that the police face is that they cannot track the person who generates such objectionable messages on WhatsApp. As there is a lack of proper surveillance in India, group administrators are also held responsible for the posts. 

Is it a crime if someone sends an unverified, inflammatory or illegal message on your group?

Receiving a message is not a crime in itself. But if that message gets circulated from a group that you manage, you could get into trouble. 

On forwarding messages received from others on WhatsApp, experts say that one cannot put a post on a group and claim that he/she received it from someone else. It depends on the investigating officer whom he wants to arrest in a particular case, admins are of course the first in line.

What can a group admin do?

Circulate a disclaimer, telling people that they cannot circulate messages that are illegal, dangerous to national security, violate IT laws or are objectionable. Make sure everyone in the group acknowledges the disclaimer that you don't want such content and are not responsible for it.

Reiterate to the group at intervals not to forward such messages.

You could inform the police if someone forwards such a message and you are skeptical about it getting circulated further.

In case you get added to a group as an admin, without your express consent, it may be safer to exit.

Depending on the nature of the content of the messages, non-members of the group can also lodge a complaint, said an expert. Moreover, there are provisions in law which allow action to be taken against a person in another country or a foreign national.

However, the police can register such cases under Section 505 1(B) of the IPC, which forbids making or publishing any statement, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or disturbing public tranquility.

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