When legal actions are taken against businesses, reliable evidence is needed to prove or counter the claims. Otherwise, businesses risk losing the case, causing reputational and financial damage. In an era where the use of WhatsApp for personal and business communications is prevalent, the ability to present archived WhatsApp messages as evidence in a court of law could be the difference between winning and losing a case.
Many countries consider text messages and voice calls from instant messaging applications as evidence in court . However, electronic records can be subject to alterations and deletions if no proper archival solution is employed to record and retain such records. Therefore, to use WhatsApp messages as evidence in a court of law, businesses must ensure that they have a robust enterprise messaging solution that records and retain 100% of work-related WhatsApp messages.
WhatsApp archived chats and their admissibility as evidence
In many countries, archived chats on WhatsApp are not directly permitted for use as evidence in legal cases. For such records to be considered evidence, they must meet certain conditions. For example, the quality of the text must be preserved. Otherwise, the evidence is not admissible and is denied by a court of law. And some countries have established laws to control digital and electronic records’ admissibility as evidence in court cases.
Using WhatsApp messages as evidence in court cases in the US
Many states such as Massachusetts and New York have laws regarding using electronic and digital records, including WhatsApp messages, as evidence in a legal case. But it is highly dependent on the quality of the message such as it should not contain blurry images, it should contain the sender information and timestamps, Also, WhatsApp and SMS messages are classified as two separate record types that require different conditions to be met to admit them as evidence in a court of law.
For instance, consider The Massachusetts Rules of Evidence. It states that text messages are electronic records that can be used as evidence in a court of law. Nevertheless, to admit them as evidence, one must prove their authenticity. However, just having the defendant’s name on a text message is insufficient proof of authenticity. Proper authentication of digital communications can be done in one of two ways:
- Using a “copy, a screenshot, photo, or print-out of the message” which has information about the message sender or the receiver
- By presenting testimony or affidavit to prove its accuracy
In addition, these copies should include the date and time of the message sent or received and the senders’ contact phone number whenever possible.
For WhatsApp messages to be authenticated, the following information must be specified:
- The time and date of the messages
- Contact details such as the phone number or email address of the parties involved in the communication
The admissibility of WhatsApp chats as evidence in India
Under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which sets forth the rules of evidence admissible in courts throughout India, an ”Electronic Record” is “any combination of text, graphics, data, audio, pictorial, or other information representation in digital form that is created, modified, maintained, archived, retrieved, or distributed by a ” computer system.”
The following conditions should be met to qualify such electronic records as evidence in a court case:
- The device must have been regularly used.
- The computer should be fully operational at the time of data creation.
- These data should be regularly and normally supplied to the computer.
- The duplicate copy must be a reproduction of the original electronic record.
Therefore, in India, WhatsApp chats are allowed to use as evidence in court cases provided that the above conditions are satisfied. Otherwise, the court cannot determine the evidentiary value of WhatsApp Chats, leading to the denial of such records.
Legal cases where WhatsApp chats were used as evidence
WhatsApp chats have been used as evidence in several legal proceedings. Here are some examples of such occasions.
The case of Paul Wells and Roberto Solari at PNC Global Logistics
In 2019, a company by the name of PNC Global Logistics fired employees Paul Wells and Roberto Solari after discovering they were sharing explicit content on WhatsApp on their work phones. The two executives then filed a legal case against the company claiming £300,000 for wrongful termination, arguing that the actual termination behind their dismissal was a financial incentive.
The company handed over the devices and showed the WhatsApp messages shared in a private group as evidence to counter their claims. It was evident that the messages were shared during business hours and the discussions held in the chat groups were offensive. Even though the two executives tried to defend those claims, the evidence was enough to prove they were intimidating and horrifying, justifying the termination of their employment.
Darren Case at Tai Tarian
On April 20, social housing provider Tai Tarian suspended employee Darren Case after discovering that he used a WhatsApp group to bully and harass a female colleague. The WhatsApp messages contain demeaning comments about the female colleague, including comments on her weight and hygiene. Darren then took the company to an employment tribunal stating his suspension was unfair. However, the WhatsApp evidence, which the court allowed the employer to present in court, disproved his claims and reaffirmed the dismissal.
How does enterprise WhatsApp archiving help companies use WhatsApp records as evidence?
Messages sent on WhatsApp, or any other messaging app for that matter, are subject to alterations and deletions if they are not stored in a secure and reliable medium.
Additionally, anyone with access to a company’s electronic and digital records can alter the message contents, time stamps, etc. Even if these records are not altered, others can claim they have been, and are not admissible as evidence. Under such circumstances, presenting even a WhatsApp screenshot as evidence in legal proceedings is challenging.
Thus, for WhatsApp chats to be admissible in court, it is imperative to adopt a robust messaging platform that archives all WhatsApp chats. Such platforms ensure real-time message capturing and storing in a secure database that supports faster information retrieval. Messages and associated data cannot be changed or erased. Thus, no one can question their admissibility in legal proceedings.
At LeapXpert, we provide a business messaging platform that offers robust archiving for work-related WhatsApp communications allowing employees to use WhatsApp securely. Companies can keep records of complete records of customer-employee communications regularly and store them with maximum security. Thus, if a need arises to present WhatsApp messages as evidence in court, companies do not have to worry about their admissibility and have great potential to prove or counter the claims.
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