False news is a more serious problem than one thinks. In the network we constantly see shared links, both on social networks and messaging applications, from unknown media that affirm things that are actually false. This phenomenon is known as “fake news”, and some claim that it was the cause of the Donald Trump’s victory in the American elections, where dozens of media wrote false news of all kinds.
A few months ago, Facebook and Google started a crusade against this kind of invented and unfounded news, in order to prevent them from spreading through the network and end up misinforming users. These kind of news are also shared a lot on messaging applications like WhatsApp, especially in groups. This type of actions generates disinformation among those who share it and read it. Many users consider these fake news as a certain thing just because an associate has shared it and they don’t bother to verify its truthfulness.
Now doing this can have legal repercussions in India. The district magistrate of Varanasi and the city police chief yesterday informed that any information that is false and published in a group of a social network or a messaging application will be the responsibility of the administrator of that group. If the administrator does not remove the false information or expel the member who has shared the publications, the authorities may take legal action against him by considering that he may be guilty of inaction and will be imprisoned.
This new standard affects both WhatsApp and Facebook. Whatsapp has a total of 200 million users in the country and is usually serves as a vector of false news transmission, besides manipulated photos and false videos.
In the event that a news item is not removed from a group by the publisher or by the administrator, users must report it to the nearest police station in order to take legal action. The rule states that although freedom of expression is important, it is also a responsibility to know what to say and confirm the truth of what is written. While this part is necessary to put an order before the chaos that supposes the false news in the network, the norm establishes that offensive posts against people and against the religious beliefs can not published.
Implementing this rule is a rather complex task due to the large number of police forces needed to do so. In addition, the police in the area where the norm is to be applied is already saturated.