WhatsApp has been accused of being a hub for “misinformation” for a long time now – because of which Facebook has continuously pushed several updates around “forwarded” messages and had decided that since it can’t see what users are sharing, it would simply cut the reach of all messages on the app.
While the messaging platform is trying to introduce newer updates to battle misinformation, respective nation leaders are also taking decisions and framing laws around sharing misinformation on the platform.
What we now have is the Indian government wanting to hold people personally accountable and jailing them for spreading coronavirus misinformation over WhatsApp.
Based on the prohibitory order issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Pranaya Ashok of Greater Mumbai, one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots of the country, it was found that WhatsApp group admins shall be held liable and punished under the section 188 of the Indian Penal Code when misinformation is shared in their groups.
The order will be in effect until June 8th. Furthermore, diving deeper into the issue, it can be said that people are also prohibited from sharing any messages that promote “mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken in order to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus and thereby cause danger to human health or safety or a disturbance of the public tranquility.”
“If somebody puts something which is contradicting, and which is a misrepresentation of our efforts, the government body efforts, then you will be taken to task. Or if we are taking some action and he misrepresents it, or he you know tries to provide some information which is not correct and makes it seem like the government is doing nothing, which is not based on facts, then obviously, we will take action on that,” said DCP Ashok.
The officer also clarified that admins of groups, no matter where they are located, will be taken into custody if their group’s efforts are causing unrest in the Greater Mumbai jurisdiction. It is also worth noting that the country’s policemen are also scrutinizing news media activities. News reporters causing civil unrest are also being held liable.
“Media reports, if they are found false, will obviously become a part of this. If they are found false. As we have already taken action in one case where the reporter had reported that there are trains being run. It led to a lot of confusion among the public. It was also a misrepresentation of the government’s actions being taken to control the epidemic. So, that was a case in which we took action under this order,” said the DCP.