WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps for approximately 1.6 billion users, with more than 65 billion messages being sent on a daily basis.

It is a simple, convenient way for people to communicate:  engage in private chats, send and receive documents, share videos and photographs, create group chats, etc., at any time of the day or night. It is quick and efficient, and certainly becoming a very popular business communication tool.

Posting harmful messages on social media can lead to legal issues. In some cases, forwarding, liking, sharing or failing to object to harmful posts, could also lead to legal wrangles.

Social media lawyer, Emma Sadleir, stated: “An important principle in South African law, known as the ‘chain of the publication’, means that if you were involved in sharing something, you are responsible for it.”

This then brings us to a recently passed law:  The admin of a group can now “Delete for Everyone”. So what does this mean?

If you’ve got the latest version of WhatsApp, you will notice the recent update which permits the admin of a Whatsapp group to delete messages sent by other people. Whereas, in the past, the only person who could “Delete for Everyone”, on a WhatsApp group, was the person who actually sent it. Now, if you are the admin of the WhatsApp group, you get to delete any messages sent on that group, for everyone. It is of paramount importance to bear this in mind, because in South African law, if you have the ability to delete something, and you choose not to, then you become legally responsible for the content.

So, if you’re the admin of a WhatsApp group, because of this recent change, you become legally responsible for everything that appears on that group. This is extremely important to share with your colleagues, family, and friends, because a lot of people just dismissed this update.

The other thing that changed is, in the past, you only had about an hour to delete for everyone, after the person sent the message. Now, following this update, you have up to 48 hours to delete messages for everyone.

So, if someone is abusing a group, eg: posting threats, incitement, hate speech, racism, or any content which is illegal – you, as the admin, have the ability to go and delete that content. If you don’t delete the content, you become legally responsible for it.

This will play a pivotal role when you attempt to defend your case in court, if you are reported for allowing content, now deemed illegal, under South African law.

Take heed of the above, and protect yourself from potential legal repercussions!

Please pass this information on to any, and all, of your contacts. Let’s be aware of the law, rather be safe than sorry!