Admins for WhatsApp groups could be in trouble for the spread of fake news. According to Malay daily Berita Harian, the Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia Jailani Johari said that action could be taken under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
He told the Berita Harian that WhatsApp admins need to be more responsible for the content appearing within their groups, and that they were the gatekeepers against the spread of fake news. In other words, these admins could face jail time or fines for the actions of other people within a private conversation.
While it sounds rather shocking, the stance is perfectly in line with the government’s stance on the burden of proof in the digital age. The introduction of Section 114A to the Evidence Act 1950 puts the burden on publications to prove that they were not responsible for comments posted on their website. It looks like the deputy minister was simply applying that particular law to this specific situation.
However, it is difficult to say if the police will be cracking down on WhatsApp groups that share fake news. The private nature of these conversations makes it very difficult to discover what goes on; although that is the entire point of private messaging apps.