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WhatsApp group admins could find themselves in trouble with the law in Malaysia, if the people in their groups spread fake news over the popular chat app.A Malaysian minister has warned that existing media laws could be used to prosecute WhatsApp users for the links they share. Deputy communications minister, Johari Gilani, said, that people could be hauled up if they jeopardize national security. It is to be mentioned that malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 prohibits the spread of false information, defamation, incitement, fraud, and spreading official secrets.
Those found allowing false information to be spread will face punishment, he said, adding that group admins should be a gatekeeper to filter news before sharing. In July last year, authorities charged a 76-year-old man for sharing a photo that insulted Prime Minister, Najib Razak, in a WhatsApp group.
Another man was arrested in April for a photo he took and spread on Whatsapp, which insulted an unnamed government leader. But critics say the law is pretty archaic, where new technology is concerned.
Anyone with a WhatsApp account can be a group administrator. And unlike a forum moderator, which usually has powers to ban or regulate speech, a WhatsApp group admin is merely a user which started a chat group, or was given the power by another admin to add new users. Some WhatsApp admins have started posting disclaimer messages in their groups distancing themselves from responsibility over the contents of the chat. Some Malaysians questioned how authorities could monitor WhatsApp. The issue isn’t unique to Malaysia.
India’s Delhi High Court debated this, before finally ruling in December last year that WhatsApp group admins are not responsible for content posted by other group members.Despite the Delhi court ruling, a Varanasi district magistrate issued an order this month allowing people to make police reports against the group or its admin, for content deemed false or defamatory.