WhatsApp goes to court over Indian government's new IT rules

New DelhiWritten By: Sidhant SibalUpdated: May 26, 2021, 06:49 PM IST

WhatsApp Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

No social media company barring Indian social media Koo has implemented the new rules

On the day the Indian government's new rules for social media come into effect, it has emerged that WhatsApp has gone to Delhi High Court against them, citing violation of privacy.

The rules, the information technology (intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics code rules), 2021 which were notified on February 25 call for new compliances, like traceability of messages to find the first originator of a message.

WhatsApp in its case has highlighted that this means going through messages which will be violative of its end-to-end encryption, which means messages can't be read except between two users or in a group.

In response to a question from WION, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, "Requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people's right to privacy." 

"We will also continue to engage with the government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us," the spokesman added.

No social media company barring Indian social media Koo has implemented these rules.

Non-compliance with the rules could attract criminal charges.

A three month period was given to all social media apps and websites to implement these rules. The new compliances require the appointment of chief compliance officers, resident grievance officer, active monitoring of the harmful content, monthly compliance report, disabling access to objectionable information.

Interestingly, the development comes even as WhatsApp has been under fire over its new privacy policy.

Under the policy, certain data like financial transactions done via WhatsApp can be shared with its parent company Facebook.

While there is no breaking of end-to-end encryption under it, in the past users risked losing right over an account if not given consent for the privacy policy. This has been relaxed now to a certain extent.

There have been increased run-ins between the Indian government and social media apps like Twitter over data and recent labelling of tweets by members of ruling BJP as "manipulated media".

Earlier in the week, Delhi Police had gone to the offices of Twitter India to serve them notice over the "toolkit incident" under which the social media giant had labelled the tweets as "manipulated".