WhatsApp sues Indian government over new privacy rules – sources By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The WhatsApp messaging utility is seen on a cellphone display screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White

By Joseph Menn

(Reuters) – WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in Delhi towards the Indian government looking for to dam rules coming into pressure on Wednesday that specialists say would compel Facebook (NASDAQ:)’s messaging app to interrupt privacy protections, sources stated.

The case asks the Delhi High Court to declare that one of many new IT rules is a violation of privacy rights in India’s structure because it requires social media firms to determine the “first originator of information” when authorities demand it, individuals acquainted with the lawsuit informed Reuters.

The WhatsApp lawsuit escalates a rising wrestle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and tech giants together with Facebook, Google’s mum or dad Alphabet (NASDAQ:) and Twitter in considered one of their key international development markets.

Tensions rose after police visited Twitter’s places of work this week. The micro-running a blog service had labelled posts by a spokesman for India’s dominant occasion and others as containing “manipulated media”, saying solid content material was included. (

New Delhi has additionally pressed tech firms to take away what it has described as misinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging India, and a few criticism of the government’s response to the disaster, which is claiming 1000’s of lives every day.

While the new legislation solely requires WhatsApp, which has half a billion customers in India, to unmask individuals credibly accused of wrongdoing, it says it can’t in observe try this alone.

WhatsApp says that as a result of messages are encrypted finish-to-finish it must break encryption for receivers of messages in addition to the originators to adjust to the new legislation.

“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,” WhatsApp stated in a press release when requested to touch upon the lawsuit.

The sources acquainted with the lawsuit declined to be recognized as a result of sensitivity of the problem.


A government official stated WhatsApp might discover a solution to monitor originators of disinformation, a protracted-standing stance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, and that the U.S. firm was not being requested to interrupt encryption.

WhatsApp stated it could proceed to interact with the government. Its Indian operations have been persevering with to function as regular on Wednesday.

India’s expertise ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The lawsuit additionally comes at time many Indians have begun utilizing rival messaging apps comparable to Signal and Telegram after WhatsApp launched a new privacy coverage earlier this 12 months which permits it to share some information with Facebook and different group companies.

While Signal and Telegram downloads have surged in India, neither app instructions as huge a consumer base as WhatsApp. They have but to touch upon India’s demand for traceability.

The response of the businesses to the new rules has been a topic of intense hypothesis since they have been unveiled in February, 90 days earlier than they have been attributable to come into pressure. (

India’s new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code designates “significant social media intermediaries” as standing to lose safety from lawsuits and legal prosecution in the event that they fail to stick to the code.

WhatsApp, its mum or dad Facebook and tech rivals have all invested closely in India. But firm officers fear privately that more and more heavy-handed regulation by the Modi government might jeopardise their prospects.

Among the new rules are necessities that massive social media companies appoint Indian residents to key compliance roles, take away content material inside 36 hours of a authorized order, and arrange a mechanism to answer complaints. They should additionally use automated processes to take down pornography.


Facebook has stated it agrees with a lot of the provisions however remains to be trying to negotiate some elements. Twitter, which has come beneath essentially the most hearth for failing to take down posts by government critics, declined to remark.

Some within the business are hoping for a delay within the introduction of the new rules whereas such objections are heard.

The WhatsApp criticism cites a 2017 Indian Supreme Court ruling supporting privacy in a case often known as the Puttaswamy judgment, the individuals acquainted with it stated.

The courtroom discovered that privacy have to be preserved besides in instances the place legality, necessity and proportionality all weighed towards it. WhatsApp argues that the new legislation fails all these exams, beginning with the dearth of express parliamentary backing.

Experts have backed WhatsApp’s arguments.

“The new traceability and filtering requirements may put an end to end-to-end encryption in India,” Stanford Internet Observatory scholar Riana Pfefferkorn wrote in March. (

Other courtroom challenges to the new rules are already pending in Delhi and elsewhere.

In one, reporters argue that the extension of expertise rules to digital publishers, together with the imposition of decency and style requirements, isn’t supported by the underlying legislation. (https://

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