The Facebook and WhatsApp applications' icons are displayed on a smartphone on February 20, 2014 in Rome / AFP/Getty

The move is an attempt to stop the spread of fake news

The administrators of group WhatsApp chats could be sent to prison, according to a new law.

People who run accounts that see people share false or misleading information could be sent to prison under new rules meant to stop the spread of fake news in India.

The new rules hold the admin of any group accountable for what is posted inside of it. Both Facebook and WhatsApp allow one or more users to manage groups, deciding who is let into it and changing its name.

Now those administrators will be responsible for ensuring that their friends and family continue to post true things in their group, according to the law in Varanasi. WhatsApp users – of which there are more than 200 million in India – have been told to only add people they personally know to conversations.

The new rules were set out in a joint order by District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and Senior Superintendent of Police Nitin Tiwari, and make clear that anyone breaking it could be referred to the police.

"There are several groups on social media which are named on news groups and also groups with other names which are propagating news and information which is not authentic," the order said, according to local reports. "These are being forwarded without cross checking."

Instead, admins must monitor what everyone is posting and, as soon as something false is identified, make clear that it is wrong and remove the person from the group. They must also inform the police about the misleading information.

If they don't do so then they'll be held responsible for the propagation of the fake news, the officials suggested. They must also not allow statements that hurt religious people to be posted on such groups.

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