According to a report by Berita Harian, WhatsApp group chat administrators could face legal action in Malaysia if they failed to curb the spread of false information among members.
This means that the admins are responsible for their group members and will be held accountable if the members are found spreading offensive or fake content.
Berita Harian quoted Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari as saying that action can be taken against the admins under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 particularly if they “jeopardise national security”. Punishable offences that fall under the Act include the spread of fake news, libel, fraud, and disclosure of classified information under the Official Secrets Act.
As such, Jailani has urged group admins to be more responsible and act as “gatekeepers” to keep fake news at bay. “The administrator may be called to assist with investigations. Whether action is taken depends on the facts and evidence of each case,” Jailani said, adding that if the admin was directly involved or allowed false information to spread intentionally, he will be punished.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Consumers Association (FMCA) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said the proposal to impose sanctions against WhatsApp admins should be implemented immediately as spreading false information not causes annoyance/tension in the community, but is also a threat to national security.
However, Mohd Yusof said the sanctions against the admins involved should not be too heavy, adding that a warning would be sufficient for the first offence. He also said that other approaches can be taken to monitor the spread of false information, such as Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957 and the Computer Crimes Act 1957, and the Penal Code.
In India, WhatsApp and Facebook group admins may find themselves behind bars if it is found that a rumour, a fake news story, or even videos deemed offensive was posted in the group under their care.
The local administration in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency came up with the order in response to concerns over the misuse of social media to publish fake news, morphed photographs and videos with fabricated narratives that can trigger tension and even communal rift in an area.
UPDATE (4th May):
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has released a set of guidelines as an advisory for group admins. According to the list, the “do”s and “don’t”s include: informing members the reason for setting up the group and consider basic ground rules, disallowing discussion to wander off topic, checking on posts regularly, so on and so forth.
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