WhatsApp or any other social media platforms used by millions of users to connect is also being used by unscrupulous elements to spread hatred and false messages. As we are still battling this present pandemic – COVID-19, we experienced first-hand the uncontrolled manner in which messages, news and other types of misinformation have been spreading like wildfire on Whatsapp and other social media outlets. Apart from these, there have been many instances in the past where unverified posts with a religious connotation have been shared to spread lawlessness and create unrest among different faiths in society.
If you are a member of a WhatsApp group, here is what you need to do:
- Do not post false news, hate speech and unverified information in the group. If another member of your group sends such information, ensure that it is not forwarded to others.
- If you post something on the group and if the Group Admin or members object to it, remove the post immediately from the group and from your mobile phone. Forward only when you feel the need to verify the source and authenticity of the news you receive. Videos and memes posted by group members should be forwarded only after understanding the purpose.
- If you come across any false/incorrect, offensive news, videos, memes or posts on the group you are a member of, inform the Group Admin as such posts may cause racial or religious tensions.
You can also complain to the nearest police station.
What if you are a Group Admin or Group Creator?
- Before adding anyone to the group, make sure that each member is a responsible and trustworthy person.
Explain the purpose and rules of the group.
- Notify all group members that if any member posts anything offensive, he or she will be immediately removed from the group. Regularly monitor posts shared in the group. If necessary, change the group settings so that unnecessary messages can be avoided.
- If some members post objectionable posts even after knowing the rules laid down by you as a Group Admin, you have the right to lodge a complaint against them at the nearest police or on the government’s cybercrime website.
- Under Section 153 (a) and Section 153 (b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, a person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years/a fine, or both. Under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, such a person can have a simple term of up to six months – imprisonment or a fine of up to rupees one thousand or both.
- Under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, such a person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or there may be fines or both. Under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, if a person publishes a statement, rumour or news intending to create fear in the area or among the public, the person should be given a term of up to three years imprisonment or fine, or both.
- Under Section 66C of the Information and Technology Act, 2000, whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine with may extend to one lakh rupees or both. Section 66D of the Information and Technology Act 2000 states that whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
- Under Section 66F of the Information and Technology Act 2000, if anyone makes such a statement or posts, messages, intimidation; if it could endanger India’s sovereignty and sovereignty, life imprisonment can be imposed under danger.
- Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act 2005: If any person has any rumour or misinformation about the severity of a disaster, such a person can be sentenced to up to one year in prison for making information or making false statements.
- Section 68 of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951: All persons shall be bound to conform to the reasonable directions of a Police Officer given in fulfilment of any of his duties under this Act.
- Sections 144 (1) and 144 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, where the District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, or according to any other executive magistrate authorised by the State Government in this regard under this Section if the magistrate thinks that there is sufficient reason to take action, the magistrate will consider the important facts of the case. A written order containing a statement (curfew, etc.) can be strictly enforced.
The Maharashtra Cyber Crime Department urges all citizens not to share any offensive message, videos, photos, memo in a situation where they should not be forwarded. The police have the right to take legal action against anyone who posts rumours, misinformation, and religious tensions.
Stay safe. Stay home. Stay away from the virus of false news and hate speech.