Sources said that WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in Delhi to try to prevent the Indian government from entering into force on Wednesday. Experts say this will force the Facebook department in California to undermine privacy protection.
The case described to Reuters by people familiar with the matter requires the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the new rules violates the privacy rights in the Indian Constitution because it requires social media companies to determine the “first source of information” when identifying. The authorities demand it.
Although the law requires WhatsApp to only reveal people who are credibly accused of wrongdoing, the company said it cannot do this alone in practice. Since messages are encrypted end-to-end, to comply with the law, WhatsApp stated that it will encrypt the recipient and the “initiator” of the message.
Reuters first reported the story on Wednesday, but it could not independently confirm that the complaint was brought by WhatsApp. WhatsApp has nearly 400 million users in India, and it cannot be censored when. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, those who did not understand the matter refused to disclose their identities.
A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment.
A government official said that WhatsApp can find a way to track the originator of false information. This is the long-term position of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the company is not required to destroy encryption technology.
The Indian Ministry of Technology did not respond to a request for comment.
Escalation of tensions
The lawsuit has intensified an increasingly fierce battle between the Modi government and technology giants including Facebook, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Twitter in one of its key global growth markets.
After the police visited Twitter’s office earlier this week, tensions intensified. The Weibo service has marked the posts of spokespersons of dominant political parties and other organizations as containing “manipulated media,” saying they include fake content.
The government has also put pressure on technology companies not only to eliminate their misleading of the COVID-19 pandemic raging in India, but also to eliminate criticism of the government’s response to the crisis, which claimed thousands of lives every day.
Since the company’s announcement in February, the company’s response to the new regulations has been the focus of speculation, with 90 days before the scheduled effective date.
The “Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code” promulgated by the Ministry of Technology of India designates “important social media intermediaries” as if they do not comply with the code, they will lose their protection against litigation and criminal proceedings.
WhatsApp, its parent company Facebook and technology competitors have all made significant investments in India. But company officials privately worry that the increasingly stringent regulations of the Modi government may jeopardize these prospects.
The new regulations include requirements for large social media companies to appoint Indian citizens as key compliance roles, delete content within 36 hours of the issuance of legal orders, and establish a mechanism for responding to complaints. They must also use automated processes to remove pornographic content.
Facebook said it agrees to most of the regulations, but is still seeking to negotiate certain aspects. For failing to delete posts by government critics, Twitter received the most criticism, but declined to comment.
While hearing such objections, some people in the industry hope to delay the introduction of new rules.
People familiar with the matter said that the WhatsApp complaint cited a 2017 Indian Supreme Court ruling that supported privacy in a case called the Puttaswamy ruling.
The court subsequently determined that unless legality, necessity, and proportionality are not conducive to privacy, privacy must be preserved. WhatsApp believes that the law failed to pass all three tests, firstly because of the lack of clear parliamentary support.
Experts support WhatsApp’s argument.
Stanford University Internet Observatory Scholar Riana Pfefferkorn wrote in March: “New traceability and filtering requirements may end India’s end-to-end encryption.”
Other challenges to the courts of the new regulations have been pending in Delhi and elsewhere.
In it, reporters argued that the basic regulations do not support the extension of technical regulations to digital publishers, including the implementation of etiquette and taste standards.