WhatsApp admin is not responsible for objectionable content : HC

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The Kerala High Court has ruled that the creator or administrator (administrator) of a WhatsApp group cannot be held vicariously liable for any objectionable content posted by any of its members. The court recently issued its decision quashing a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) filed against Manual of Cherthala, Alappuzha, a WhatsApp group administrator, for posting a child pornography video by one of its members. The court held that “as held by the High Courts of Bombay and Delhi, the only privilege enjoyed by the administrator of a WhatsApp group over other members is that he may either add or remove any member of the group. He has no physical or other control over what a member of a group posts there. He cannot moderate or censor messages in a group. Thus, the creator or the administrator of a WhatsApp group, merely acting in that capacity, cannot be held vicariously liable for any objectionable content posted by a member of the group. The court further observed that vicarious criminal liability cannot be ” attached only by reason of a provision of any law and not otherwise. In the absence of a special criminal law creating vicarious liability, an administrator of a WhatsApp group cannot be held liable for the objectionable publication by a member of the group. The court declared q a WhatsApp administrator could not be an intermediary under computer law. He did not receive or transmit any file or provide any service relating to such a file. There was no master-servant or principal-agent relationship between the admin of a WhatsApp group and its members. It is against basic principles of criminal law to hold an administrator responsible for a message posted by someone else in the group.

According to the petitioner, he had created a WhatsApp group called “FRIENDS” and had appointed two other people as administrators with him and one of them had posted a porn video. A crime was recorded by the Ernakulam Municipal Police against the Member under the provisions of the Information Technology Act and also under the POCSO and made the Claimant a co-accused.

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