In what can be said to be a first incident of this kind, WhatsApp has been issued a contempt notice by the Kerala police over the messaging app’s refusal to provide information on a defamation case. A woman, belonging to Kilimanoor in Kerala, had submitted a complaint with the cyber police alleging that indecent posts were circulated against her on the social media platform.
Acting on the complaint, Kerala police asked WhatsApp to give details of the person who initially circulated the posts. However, citing the end-to-end encryption policy, the tech giant refused the request. Taking the union government’s IT Amendment Rules, 2023 into account, the police sent a fresh notice to the Chief of WhatsApp in India along with an order from the additional chief judicial magistrate.
The recent amendment revokes the legal protection social media platforms and its intermediaries have under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. This means that WhatsApp officials can even be arrested if they fail to provide the information sought by the cyber police.
The Kerala police have been ramping up efforts to tackle frauds and crimes through the help of the social media platform in the recent past. A WhatsApp helpline was launched in September 2023 to help victims of loan app scams to lodge complaints. In October, the State Police Media Center launched a helpline to prevent threats and extortion, which includes sharing of explicit content online.