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WhatsApp approaches court against Centre’s new digital rules citing users’ right to privacy

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Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court against the Union government’s new digital rules that came into effect today.

The company has claimed that the new rules formulated by the Centre would force it to compromise with the privacy protection of users. As of now, the messaging app provides end-to-end encryption to nearly 40 crore users in India.

Violation of right to privacy

The company has requested the court to declare that one of the new digital rules is in contravention to the right to privacy as enshrined under the Indian Constitution as it forces social media platforms to identify the first originator of information whenever the authorities want it. WhatsApp said that it will have to break the end-to-end encryption to comply with the law.

What WhatsApp said

The messaging service claimed that the new rules enacted by the Indian government will require it to trace the origin of the message sent on the platform.

WhatsApp, which has nearly 40 crore users in India, in a statement said, “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,”

New digital rules

Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter were given three months by the government to comply with the new digital rules, the deadline for which ended Tuesday. The new rules require these technology giants to set up a grievance response mechanism, remove content within 36 hours of a legal order and appoint a compliance officer in India.

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This apart, companies are also required to develop automated processes for the removal of offensive content.  The Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code also provide that the major social media sites will lose their protection from legal prosecution for the content posted on their platform if they fail to comply with the government diktat.

What other social media giants said

With the deadline for compliance to the new digital rules coming to an end on Tuesday, Google assured the Indian government of its continuing efforts to ensure legal compliance, while highlighting its long history of managing content as per local laws.

On the other hand, Twitter, which is mired in controversy over the Congress toolkit episode and for labelling BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s tweet on the Congress toolkit as “manipulated media”.  Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said it wants to comply with the new rules, but wants more discussions on some of them.

 

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