WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is suing the Indian government over new regulations that it says could allow the authorities to exercise massive control and violate users’ privacy.
The media platform announced on Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court. It argued that India’s new “backwardness” rules, which require technology companies to provide details about the sender of private messages, violate citizens’ constitutional right to privacy.
In: Blog post:WhatsApp claims that the backlash rules will force it to crack the final encryption, which hides users’ messages, paving the way for a “new horse of mass control”. The backlog rules were announced in February as part of new social media regulations that will take effect on Wednesday.
“Civil society tech experts around the world have consistently argued that the requirement to ‘search’ for private messages would break the endpoint encryption and lead to real abuse,” WhatsApp said. “WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people ‘s private messages. We will continue to do everything we can under Indian law.”
The lawsuit was first reported by Reuters. The new rules will allow the government to take offensive statements, decrypt messages, regulate Internet streaming services and online news.
Demands have exacerbated tensions with social media companies. This week, Twitter caused a stir with New Delhi after the ruling party’s national speaker tweeted it as a “speculative media outlet.” Anti-terrorism police visited the company’s offices on Monday after receiving a complaint about the label.
Last week, India’s IT ministry instructed social media companies to curb misinformation by taking all content it names, references or suggests an “Indian version” of the coronavirus.
According to the Indian government, the country is the largest market for WhatsApp with 530 million users. At the end of last year, after prolonged delays, the company received confirmation to launch its payment service in India.
“The government has put its foot down,” said Ant Ayant Kola, a technology analyst at Convergence Catalyst in Bangalore. “Now there seems to be no middle ground that I have to talk about.”