WhatsApp group administrators not liable for content: Indian court

Posted on Dec 19 2016 - 10:19am by Huzoor Bux


Image: BRITTANY HEBERT/MASHABLE

WhatsApp group administrators can heave a sigh of relief. 

Following two directives issued in April by two separate state governments that made social media group administrators liable for content circulated by other members of the group, the Delhi High Court has now ruled out any such possibility.

Legally India reported that the Court took into account the fact that messages posted in WhatsApp groups did not require the administrator’s prior approval. Hence, holding the admin liable for member-posted content is equivalent to holding the ‘manufacturer of the newsprint’ liable for defamatory statements in the newspaper.

This comes as a welcome move in an increasingly sensitive cyberspace in India, where the state authorities and civil society is engaged in a debate on internet censorship.

In one of the above mentioned directives, a senior official in the politically turbulent state of Jammu & Kashmir had called for mandatory registration of all “WhatsApp news groups” and the monitoring of registered groups by state authorities.

The April circular had also stated that group admins would be held responsible for any content that leads to “untoward incidents”.

Later in August, a woman in the western Indian state of Maharashtra had filed an FIR against the admin of a WhatsApp group she was a part of citing the “circulation of lewd messages” about her.

The complainant also said that the admin had “failed to take action against a member” who was circulating such posts. Later, the accused had moved the Bombay High Court for quashing the FIR.

And in October, a WhatsApp group admin was arrested on charges of overseeing objectionable posts against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Party leaders had gathered at a police station in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and lodged a complaint against the man.

WhatsApp is the most used instant messaging application in India with over 160 million monthly active users and any laws relating to it can have far-reaching implications.



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