WhatsApp and  your responsibility
Our Readers' Opinions
December 20, 2019

WhatsApp and your responsibility

EDITOR: Two news stories published just two months apart. The first by the Trinidad Daily Express and the second by the BBC, tell us a cautionary tale about our need to be responsible when posting or reposting tales on WhatsApp and (or any other medium, for that matter.

In the Trinidad saga, a woman posted an image of a Ministry of Health employee on Facebook claiming he was a “bandit pretending to spray for mosquitos.” She says the original warning about the man was sent to her via a WhatsApp chat group and she simply reposted it to warn others about the ‘fraudster’. It turns out that her story was ‘fake news’ and she is now being sued for defaming the character of a genuine Ministry of Health worker.

In the other tale coming out of UK, and related by the BBC and other international news agencies, someone sent a child sexual abuse video to a highly decorated and exemplary Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Force via WhatsApp. Though she did not view the video, nor had she solicited it, she was charged for possessing the video and was convicted on November 26, 2019.

Prosecutors are convinced that the videos were not sent with the intention of providing sexual gratification, nevertheless, she and her sister (who had sent her the video) are being placed on the sexual offenders register for five years. The Superintendent also faces the prospect of losing a job she cherishes and at which she excelled, among other things, because the prosecution claims she did not delete the video immediately and did not report her sister who had forwarded it to her.

Whatever may have been the militating circumstances, this second story resonated deeply with me since this type of predicament can happen to just about anyone. I want to think that for many of us, it is time for us to review our approaches to sharing unsavory material. Let us not be too hasty to share fake news. Let us not be too quick to share images that could appear to compromise a person’s integrity. In the case of the police officer, her reputation, her career, and by extension their influence on the world and community are completely destroyed. I wonder how the one who had sent her the video feels? Was it worth it to simply be the first to send this bit of juicy gossip on? Now the officer’s life is destroyed because of someone else’s whim – someone who didn’t think twice before pressing the SEND button.

We have a responsibility to be careful in determining what material is worthy of being shared. And we need to remember the power vested in WhatsApp and other media to be a force for propaganda and destruction. One needs to remember the WhatsApp murders in India and elsewhere. Please, friends, use WhatsApp and social media responsibly. You could well be holding the life and wellbeing of another human being in your hands,

Iris Mounsey