The popular messaging service WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government. The grounds for the lawsuit are a new government regulation that reportedly violates Whatsapp’s traceability 🕵️ clauses.
The lawsuit challenges a new rule that requires social media companies to identify the sender of information deemed inappropriate or unlawful. WhatsApp is therefore requesting the Delhi High Court to recognize the government’s new IT rules as a breach of the privacy rights enshrined in India’s constitution.
In response, the Indian government has labeled Whatsapp’s actions as resistance 🙅♀️ and demanded compliance. Here’s what we know about the case thus far.
What Are India’s New IT Rules?
The new IT rules implemented by the Indian government require social media companies 📱 to appoint local officers for compliance, liaison, and grievance handling. However, there has always been a conflict between local laws and social media platforms. So, critics say, appointing local officers to address grievances puts the officers at risk of being intimidated by local authorities.
The new ruling also calls for companies like WhatsApp to break their end-to-end encryption and track down 🧐 original senders. According to the Indian government, this only applies to sexual content and national security threats.
Unfortunately for WhatsApp, this undermines one of its main draws. End-to-end encryption is something a company like WhatsApp prides itself on. Users of service have come to expect the security of encryption, and a change could result in an exodus of WhatsApp users.
The Indian government also wants social media intermediaries to monitor user-generated content by using artificial intelligence 🤖 (AI) . Social media is already attempting to do this.
While AI is capable of pre-moderation, actual humans need to moderate posted content. With the number of posts out there, that’s a large workload 🏋️ many platforms can’t handle. It’ll only lead to stress and outsourcing to third parties.
WhatsApp has been vocal 📣 against the new ruling implemented by the Indian government, calling it unconstitutional. It filed a lawsuit on May 25th, which is coincidentally the last day for companies to comply with the ruling.
The WhatsApp lawsuit cited the 2017 Justice K. S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India judgment in support of its grievances. The company wants the court to stop the new rules and prevent criminal liability 👮 for its employees for not complying.
WhatsApp argues that traceability isn’t possible for the default app. It says breaking its end-to-end encryption would weaken the app’s privacy and hinder free speech and expression.
To complicate matters even more, to comply with the ruling, the platform will have to establish changes to its app just for India. It’ll have to develop a new version of the app that lacks default end-to-end encryption and supports traceability.
WhatsApp said that while it supports proportionate regulation, it can’t support the weakening of user privacy and putting faultless individuals at risk. That’s why it filed a lawsuit demanding the high court 🏛️ stop the ruling.
What This Means for Social Media Platforms in India
The new IT rules affect all social media companies, not just WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. Google is also a part of the ruling because of its large presence and influence in the market.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Google will comply with all laws set by the Indian Government. Pichai explained that the company respects 🥺 the local laws of every country it operates in. Google has clear transparency reports when complying with requests from local governments.
While WhatsApp is disputing 🤔 the new ruling, its parent company, Facebook, stated that it agrees with the new rules. A spokesperson said Facebook is working to implement operational processes that improve platform efficiency.
In response to the new rules, Twitter said that it is uneasy about the use of threatening tactics by Indian police 🚓 following the raid of its offices in India. Twitter’s statement said that the raid was in response to the company maintaining its global terms of service, along with essential components of the new IT rules.
Under the new ruling, social media companies must appoint an official who is an Indian resident to handle government grievances. Social media platforms also need to make changes to their terms and interface or risk criminal prosecution.
The fact that other social media companies have made moves to comply with the new regulations does not bode well for WhatsApp and its lone crusade 🦹♂️ against the Indian government. The ruling for this lawsuit will set the tone for how social media platforms operate in India going forward.