Battle lines drawn: WhatsApp goes to court over Centre’s new IT rules


New Delhi: 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 on Wednesday (May 26) against them citing violation of privacy.

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

WhatsApp in its case has highlighted that going through messages will be violative of its end-to-end encryption mechanism.

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In response to a Zee Media question, 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 spokesperson added.

No social media company, barring Indian company Koo has implemented the rules. Non-compliance of these rules could attract criminal actions.

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 and 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.

The development comes even as there have been increased run-ins between the Indian govt and social media apps like Twitter over data and recently labelling tweets of members of ruling BJP as “manipulated media”.

Earlier in the week, Delhi police had gone to the offices of Twitter India in Delhi to serve them notice over the “toolkit” case.

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