WhatsApp group admins worried about legal action

SERVICE INTERRUPTED: WhatsApp was down for more than three hours on Saturday just days after Facebook bought it for US$19bil (RM57bil).

PETALING JAYA: Administrators of WhatsApp group chats are worried about being prosecuted for their group members spreading offensive or fake content.

This follows a news report in a Malay daily that said they may face legal action for failing to stop the spread of false information.

As an administrator of several group chats on WhatsApp, 25-year-old Joe said that he would think twice before becoming an administrator of any more group chats.

“I don't want to be responsible for what other people say. A lot of people don't realise that some of the things they share are fake news and against the law," he said.

"I do tell family members and friends to verify the news they are sharing, but I don't have the heart to kick them out for sharing fake news," said Joe, adding that most people do not have any malicious intent when sharing fake news.

Another administrator Saleha, 33, said she is feeling anxious as her WhatsApp groups often share fake news.

She says the majority of people who spread unverified news are often from the older generation.

While Saleha disagrees with the spreading of such information, she understands that those who do so may have good intentions and are only looking out for the safety of others.

However, she is in a quandary on how to respond to the sharing of fake messages.

"Of course, I would not kick anyone out of the group, because they are family members and might feel offended," she said.

Saleha said she is now nervous because she is the administrator of several groups.

"I don't know who might report me. There might be snitches in my groups," she said.

Meanwhile, a disclaimer notice by WhatsApp group administrators have been circulating on several group chats.

The notice reads: Saya dan lain-lain admin group ini tidak membenarkan dan menyokong sebarang bentuk whatapps yang memaparkan informasi pornografi, tidak benar, fitnah, hasutan, penipuan dan paparan yang tidak sesuai selaras dan seperti yang ditetapkan dengan/oleh Akta Kommunikasi dan Multimedia 1998. Segala Whatapps dipaparkan oleh individu atau saya sendiri di dalam group ini bukan  tanggungjawab saya, ia adalah tanggungjawab setiap individu dalam group ini.

(I and other group admins do not allow or support any form of WhatsApp messages that display information that is pornographic, incorrect, libellous, seditious, false or inappropriate and as determined in accordance with/ by the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998. All WhatApp messages displayed by individuals or myself in this group are not my responsibility, it is the responsibility of every individual in this group.)

Berita Harian on Thursday quoted Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari as saying that group chat admins can be held accountable under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Offences that fall under the Act include the spread of fake news, libel, fraud and exposure of classified information under the Official Secrets Act.

Jailani urged group administrators to be more responsible and act as “gatekeepers” to keep fake news at bay.


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