Social media law specialist Emma Sadleir has warned that WhatsApp group admins could be held legally liable for what’s said on the group, and could be sued for defamation.
The warning comes after a WhatsApp group admin was arrested in India after a member of the group shared an edited image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The person who created and posted the image to the group was also arrested.
The arrests follow directives by two Indian state governments which warned that social media administrators were liable for content circulated in groups.
In South Africa, the situation is similar to India, where a WhatsApp group admin assumes responsibility for what is posted in the group.
Speaking on Radio 702, Sadleir said the “law of South Africa treats a WhatsApp administrator as if they are like an editor of a newspaper and you are responsible for the content of its pages”.
“The learning from this case is that when you are the administrator of a page and someone posts something obscene, controversial, or illegal, you have to immediately dissociate yourself from it,” she said.
Sadleir advised WhatsApp group admins to clearly state that they are “dissociating themselves from what’s been said on the group if it is defamatory in any way”.