While social media apps help its users quickly send news updates, on-sight photos and videos, there’s still a loophole on how authentic these messages could be. Fake messages such as ‘WhatsApp without Internet’, ‘Spin the Fortune Wheel’, etc, are virtually harmless. However, some others might create panic and worries among the masses.
As reported by the Hindu, a rumoured message was doing rounds, which included the following message:
‘3,000 armed men are roaming in parts of Solapur district with the intention of kidnapping children.’
This message went wild on WhatsApp, and was circulated in different WhatsApp groups. Sadly, 10 group admins were booked for spreading this rumor. Post the viral rumour, individuals in Solapur formed vigilante squads to safeguard their children. Though the message was possibly created or forwarded by an individual in the group, the Admins were also held responsible for the rumour, which caused a huge panic. To understand how an admin in a WhatsApp group is also responsible for such rumors, The Hindu had a discussion on cyber crime with industry experts Vicky Shah and Vijay Mukhi.
Answering the question about why should an Admin on a WhatsApp group also take the blame of such rumoured messages by a normal participant in the group, Vijay Mukhi said that the police fail to locate the person responsible for generating such rumoured posts. Due to absence of proper surveillance in India, group admins will also be held liable for the action of their group members. On the contrary, Shah also stated that the one who posts should be held responsible and not the admin, but there is no provision as such.
Justifying the statement, Shah further said If a person forwards, transmits or distributes any such rumoured messages or content—without knowing its genuineness, and if such messages results in a loss to someone else, the group admins will also be booked under investigation. However, group admins or its members cannot simply claim that ‘they just forwarded what we received’. It's up to the Investigating Officer to decide on whom to arrest.
The member-to-admin ratio from each WhatsApp group is responsible for spreading rumoured information across the social platform. The Hindu also reports that if you find any information sent via WhatsApp, that could be a rumor, you can lodge a police complaint immediately. This will help the police investigate the case as soon as possible, before it gets forwarded to another 100 and then go viral.
The police will register such cases under Section 505 1(B) of the IPC, which forbids making or publishing any statement, rumour or report 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 against the public tranquility.
To avoid such embarrassing encounters and falling into the trap of investigations, we suggest that you refrain from forwarding any messages without knowing the authenticity of the same. If you feel that the message could be a rumour or could cause harm to someone else, we suggest that you simply don’t forward it to anyone or if needed, report the case to the Group Admin and/or the police. Therefore, before you start a group, our advice would be to include only those members who can be responsible for what they say on the group.
As of now, if you are on a group and someone adds you as an Admin, you are by default made into an ‘Admin’. WhatsApp (yet) does not include the feature of accepting the request, to either put you into a group or making you an Admin. By default, you are roped into it. WhatsApp developers should take this issue seriously and look into the matter to implement the feature at the earliest....