Blocked after rush of ‘congratulatory messages’, WhatsApp unblocks Cyberabad Police emergency number

Rahul V Pisharody
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According to the Cyberabad Police, their WhatsApp number had received a whopping 1,900 messages from across India, over a period of three days since the killings.

After the early morning 'encounter' of the four accused in Hyderabad rape-murder case, the Cyberabad Police said it was forced to switch to an alternative number, after WhatsApp blocked its number following the heavy flow of incoming "congratulatory messages." The number has, however, now been restored after the authorities contacted the social media platform.

According to the Cyberabad Police, their WhatsApp number had received 1,900 messages from across India, over a period of three days since the killings. The same number, prior to the incident, used to receive only about 150 messages a month. Alarmed by the heavy flow of messages, WhatsApp blocked the number on Sunday. Considering the importance of the emergency contact, police activated an alternate number for receiving complaints via WhatsApp.

When the authorities informed WhatsApp that the number is used by the public for listing their grievances, the number was unblocked. Upon getting reactivated on Monday morning, the WhatsApp number has received 600 messages between 7 am and 11.30 am.

Explaining what happened, P Ravindra Prasad, inspector of police, IT Cell, Cyberabad Crime Branch, told indianexpress.com that after December 6 'encounter', a lot of people tried to contact the police to see if they would respond. "A lot of congratulatory messages were also received and we responded to a lot of unknown numbers. Whatsapp found something fishy and as per their policy to spam a number which sends a lot of messages to unknown contacts, our number was blocked" Prasad said.

Citizens who were trying to contact the police through the blocked number took to social media when they couldn't reach the cops.  Following the outrage, on Monday morning, Cyberabad police once again tweeted "Dear Citizens, Our #Cyberabad #Police Whats App 9490617444 is activated. The #Cyberabad #Police is here for you 24/7 #whatsapp #service. thank you. @TelanganaDGP @RachakondaCop @hydcitypolice(sic)"

The WhatsApp control room, set up for each district unit or commissionerate in Telangana, usually receives complaints of crime against women, traffic violations, public nuisance, etc with photos, videos and audio etc, and the same is forwarded to respective departments for further action. The number has been active since 2015. Similar WhatsApp numbers are used by Hyderabad police - 9490-616-555 and Rachakonda police - 9490-617-111.

Since people have already started sending their grievances to the alternate number issued by Whatsapp, the same is going to be in use now.