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WhatsApp lawsuit intensifies fear of India’s new social media rules

After WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, activists warned that new regulations governing Indian social media companies will make it difficult for these companies to operate and give the authorities the power to censor Internet users.

Facebook’s subsidiary WhatsApp filed a legal action against the Indian government in Delhi to try to block the regulations that went into effect on Wednesday, which experts say will force the company to undermine privacy protections.

The lawsuit requires the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the rules violates the privacy rights in the Indian Constitution because it requires social media companies to determine the “first source of information” when requested by the authorities.

Nikhil Pahwa, founder of the technology publication Medianama, said: “This is probably the most important privacy case in India.”

He said in a tweet: “Yes, the platform needs to be regulated. However, it must be managed in a way that allows users to control the platform. Not in a way that authorizes the government and allows them to use the platform to control users. Voice management.”

WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, said it will “continue to work with the Indian government to develop practical solutions to ensure the safety of the people, including responding to effective requests for legal information.”

WhatsApp said in a statement: “Requirement for messaging apps to’track’ chat is equivalent to requiring us to keep a fingerprint for every message sent on WhatsApp, which will break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally destroy it. People’s right to privacy.” NDTV News quoted.

The lawsuit came at a time when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tech giants such as Facebook, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Twitter clashed between one of its main markets.

The government asked these companies to delete misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic raging in India, as well as criticizing the government’s response to the crisis and criticism of farmers’ protests.

The new “Middleman Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code” was released in February, requiring large social media companies to appoint Indian citizens as key compliance roles, delete content within 36 hours after the legal order is issued, and establish a mechanism for responding to complaints .

If these companies do not comply with the law, they will be protected by litigation and criminal proceedings.

Apar Gupta, executive director of the Digital Freedom Internet Foundation, said: “This means it will be difficult for them to conduct business in India because they will be liable for all types of legal cases, including fines. Or even criminal proceedings.” Delhi-based human rights organization.

He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “This will have a chilling impact on Internet users in India, because the platform will censor more speech under threats of law enforcement.”

Throughout Asia, in recent months, some countries have enacted a series of regulations on the use of the Internet and data. Human rights organizations have warned that these measures increase the risk of large-scale surveillance and violations of freedom of speech.

According to the Internet Freedom Foundation, at least six other petitions have been filed in Indian courts to challenge the new social media regulations.

Prasanth Sugathan, the legal director of SFLC.in, the digital rights organization that submitted the petition, said that the regulation has aroused “significant concerns about freedom of speech and expression, and will be detrimental to the principles of free and open Internet.”

He added: “There may be more social media intermediaries suing the court.”

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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