- WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in India’s Delhi High Court challenging the country’s latest IT rules.
- On February 25, social media sites were given three months to comply with the Information Technology Laws, 2021.
- WhatsApp has repeatedly declined to comply with the government’s demand.
WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in India’s Delhi High Court challenging the country’s latest and tougher IT rules, which require instant messaging platforms to assist in identifying the message’s “originator.”
On May 25, a petition was filed questioning the statutory validity of the laws, which take effect on May 26.
“Ask us to hold a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would breach end-to-end encryption and fundamentally compromise people’s right to privacy,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
According to the spokesperson, the messaging app has repeatedly joined civil society and experts around the world in resisting requirements that would breach its users’ privacy.
“In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Indian government on realistic ways to keep people safe, including responding to legitimate legal demands for the information we have,” the spokesperson said.
On February 25, social media sites were given three months to comply with the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Laws, 2021.
Regarding a judicial order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction or an order issued under section 69 of the Information Technology Act by the Competent Authority, the law states that an intermediary offering messaging services must “allow the identification of the initial originator of the information on its computer resource.
According to the rules, an order can only be issued to prevent, detect, investigate, prosecute, or punishing an offence involving India’s sovereignty and integrity, the state’s security, friendly relations with foreign nations, or public order, or incitement to an offence involving the above or involving rape, sexually explicit material, or child sexuality.
No order will be issued if other, less invasive methods of determining the source of information are effective.
“…no significant social media user shall be required to reveal the contents of any electronic message, some other data related to the first originator, or any information relevant to its other users are required to conform with an order for identification of the first originator,” the rules say.
“WhatsApp has done what any company must do if end-to-end encryption and privacy are important to them. The government’s IT regulations are illegal.
As shown by the recent Twitter dispute, the government of India has been abusing the powers given to it by subordinate legislation in the name of combating disinformation and controlling technology companies.
This is precisely why the Free and Open Source Software community petitioned the Kerala High Court to get these rules overturned,” said Mishi Choudhary, founder of the Software Freedom Law Centre in India.
For more than two years, the Union government and WhatsApp have been at odds over tracing the origins of fake/illegal messages.
WhatsApp has repeatedly declined to comply with the government’s demand, claiming that doing so would jeopardise WhatsApp users’ privacy.