WhatsApp: Criminals’ new fetish

WhatsApp: Criminals’ new fetish
Highlights

Even as activist Sunitha Krishnan’s #ShameTheRapist campaign created an uproar, the Supreme Court on Friday decided to take the matter seriously. On Thursday, a video of a gang rape in Pakistan came to light. The Pakistan police tried to get the video removed from the WhatsApp network but to no avail.

Even as activist Sunitha Krishnan’s #ShameTheRapist campaign created an uproar, the Supreme Court on Friday decided to take the matter seriously. On Thursday, a video of a gang rape in Pakistan came to light. The Pakistan police tried to get the video removed from the WhatsApp network but to no avail. This peer to peer messaging service that has proved to be a boon even to the Cyberabad Police, which recently launched the Citizen-Police Connect programme, is ironically also the blackmailer’s perfect tool.

WhatsApp has firmly stated that it is only a service provider and that it is does not moderate content. WhatsApp can be taken to court if it refuses to co-operate with investigative authorities, according to the Information Technology Act	- Karnika SethWhatsApp possesses no central moderator that has control over the content circulating over the network. The resulting loopholes in the privacy policy of WhatsApp have allowed abusers to go berserk with their messages, holding unsuspecting users ransom with private content. In a recent incident, one Chikki Reddy Rambabu from Hyderabad threatened his friend to circulate her morphed photographs over the app and extorted money on two occasions before finally being nabbed by the police.

“We arrested him and confiscated his phone,” says Cyberabad Assistant Commissioner S Jai Ram. “But it is not possible to delete her photographs from every contact he may have sent them to,” he adds. Even as videos of rape and pornography are doing the rounds on WhatsApp, the police and cyber security consultants are not of one accord over the rise of such instances. CV Anand, Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, says, “WhatsApp is relatively safe compared to Facebook and Twitter as it is self-moderated.”

Jai Ram says that WhatsApp crimes constitute only 2 to 3 per cent of social media criminal cases. However Dhanya Menon, a renowned cyber security consultant, says, “WhatsApp is the abuser’s new fetish. In the last one month, I have come across a hundred cases of abuse over WhatsApp from Kerala alone.”

Moreover, Jai Ram says that victims of WhatsApp crimes usually do not file a complaint with the police. Menon is of the opinion that police procedures are demoralising. Victims opt for her help instead of rushing to the police. This however does not bring the culprit to book.

WhatsApp is relatively safe compared to Facebook and Twitter as it is self-moderated. A need for a probe has not arisen yet and police are competent enough to track criminals - C V Anand

DCP Ravi Varma, Hyderabad Crime Branch, confirms that requests to furnish details of certain account holders from Indian authorities are not entertained by WhatsApp. Also, there is no regional office of the messaging giant in India. Karnika Seth, a Noida-based cyber law consultant, says, “When contacted, WhatsApp had firmly stated that it is only a service provider and that it is does not moderate content.

WhatsApp can be taken to court if it refuses to co-operate with investigative authorities, according to the Information Technology Act.” While Commissioner Anand also avers that there are procedures in place to approach WhatsApp Inc, he adds that the need has not arisen and that the police are competent enough to track criminals.

By:Mythili Sankara

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