IT rules jeopardizes the privacy of Indian internet users: WhatsApp sues India’s Government

The new controversial law that requires message traceability is unconstitutional and violates the right to privacy. Image source: The Guardians Introduction: Whatsapp sues India's Government

WhatsApp sues the Indian Government in a bid to block the mass surveillance rule, which is unconstitutional and invades the privacy of the users.

New IT rules: unconstitutional and invasion of privacy

The intermediary guidelines and Media ethics Code which was introduced in February and was supposed to come into effect from today stated that messaging apps identify the originator of text when asked and development of some automated tools which will take down posts which deem under the category of illegal but WhatsApp, being one of the biggest used social platforms and operated by 400 million users argued that doing so would require tracing every message sent by the user which will eventually lead to violating users' right to privacy.

A lawsuit filed to protect people's right to privacy: The company filed a lawsuit in the Delhi court on Wednesday stating that the new guidelines are unconstitutional and a violation of preservation of privacy and said that it won’t be storing any data and put it under traceable database, and infringe the privacy of its users as stated in 2017 Supreme Court ruling. A lawyer for WhatsApp said that “A government that mandates traceability is effectively mandating a new form of mass surveillance.” He further said in order to trace one message, services would have to trace every message and there is no way to predict which message the government would want to investigate in the future. In 2019 fingers were pointed at Modi Government after WhatsApp claimed that journalists, scholars, and activists were among users targeted with spyware. However, the Indian Government called the Indian lawsuit an “act of defiance” and India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology called WhatsApp's lawsuit, an unfortunate attempt for preventing regulations from coming into effect. The Indian government, in its defense, argues that rules are required to track the origin of misinformation to which WhatsApp replied that this method is highly ineffective and risky since people would get punished for being the originator, meanwhile all they’re doing is re-sharing information they found somewhere else.

Constant clash between Government and social media

There has been a constant clash between the Indian government and social media platforms, both have embroiled in conflict. The lawsuit is the latest heightening of tensions between the Indian government and big tech companies. The government has clashed with Twitter twice, demanding it to remove anti-government posts, inclusive of farmer protests, and the handling of pandemics. There have been similar demands from Facebook and Instagram. According to the new IT rules the company has to remove the content within the time of 36 hours and to deal with any complaints, an Indian-based compliance officer to be appointed. The government argues these could incite panic amongst the public; the critics say it is an attempt so that the public does not question the authority.

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