Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp is introducing a new feature that gives group admins more control of the participation and content that is being shared on groups. Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp is introducing a new feature that gives group admins more control of the participation and content that is being shared on groups.
Previously, only senders could delete messages, but as of this month, WhatsApp group administrators have an option to delete any messages posted by any group member.
“Many South Africans are members of WhatsApp groups to stay up to date with communications of common interest to occupants of a sectional title complex, members of a social club, or parents of school children in a particular grade or class. However, while these WhatsApp groups can be useful, they can also expose members to questionable content,” said Mercia Fynn of Kisch IP.
She said now that messages could be deleted by the administrators, it was their duty to ensure prompt removal of harmful, defamatory or threatening content. Failure to do so could be seen as endorsing or approving the content and sets the administrators at risk for legal action.
Citing case law, Fynn said that where a person is tagged or mentioned in unlawful content on social media and they do not actively take any steps to distance themselves from it, they could face legal action for engaging in the so-called “chain of publication” in respect of that content.
“It is important for admins to exercise caution when using social media platforms, even if it is just the family WhatsApp group chat, as liability may be incurred for simply omitting to perform a few screen taps,” she said.
She added that if the WhatsApp group member that is not the group admin disapproves of the content, or if the content is illegal, then they can leave the group to avoid being seen as being part of a chain of publication.
In a recent video published on Youtube, Digital law Company’s social media expert Emma Sadleir alerted WhatsApp group admins of the new feature, describing it as a “game changer”.
“It brings to an end the debate we have been having for a long time in legal circles about whether or not an admin of a WhatsApp group is responsible for content on that group,” said Sadleir.