According to reports, sources said that WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in Delhi, accusing the Indian government of trying to prevent a regulation that went into effect on Wednesday. Some experts say that this regulation will force Facebook to violate its privacy protection policy.
According to people familiar with the matter, the lawsuit requires the Delhi High Court to rule that one of the provisions of the new regulations violates the right to privacy in the Indian Constitution. Specifically, it is because this regulation requires that social media companies must confirm the “first initiator of information” when the government needs it .
Although this regulation requires WhatsApp to only expose people who are credibly accused of wrongdoing, the company said it cannot do this in practice alone. Since information is encrypted end-to-end, WhatsApp stated that in order to comply with this law, the company must break the encryption process for information recipients and “initiators”.
At present, the media has not been able to independently confirm that WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in court, nor can it confirm when the Indian court will review the lawsuit. WhatsApp has nearly 400 million users in India. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, people familiar with the matter declined to be named.
A WhatsApp spokesperson also declined to comment.
The struggle between the Indian government and technology giants including Facebook, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Twitter is escalating. This lawsuit is just the latest case of the frequent struggles of technology giants in the huge market of India.
Earlier this week, Indian police visited Twitter’s office, and the situation became more tense afterwards. Twitter labeled some of the posts published by spokespersons of the ruling party and other parties as “manipulated media,” and stated that the posts may contain fake content.
In addition, the Indian government also pressured technology companies to delete not only some false information about the COVID-19 pandemic raging in India, but also some critical comments on the government’s response to the crisis. Up to now, this crisis in India is claiming thousands of lives every day.
Since the announcement of the new regulations in February this year, the reaction of these large social media giants to the new regulations has been the focus of speculation.
The “Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code” promulgated by the Ministry of Information Technology of India pointed out that if “important social media intermediaries” fail to comply with the code, they will lose the protection of litigation and criminal prosecution.
Currently, WhatsApp, its parent company Facebook, and their technology competitors are investing heavily in India. But the executives of large technology companies are privately worried that the Indian government’s increasingly stringent regulations may jeopardize the prospects of these investments.
The new regulations also include 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. In addition, these technology companies must also use automated procedures to remove pornographic content.
Facebook said it agrees to most of the terms in the new regulations, but is still seeking to negotiate some aspects. Twitter, which has received the most criticism for failing to delete posts by government critics, declined to comment.
Some people in the industry hope that while these objections are being heard, the introduction of the new regulations can also be postponed.
People familiar with the matter said that the WhatsApp lawsuit cited a 2017 Indian Supreme Court ruling in favor of privacy in a case called Puttaswamy.
The court subsequently found that the case emphasized that privacy must be protected, unless legality, necessity, and proportionality are not conducive to privacy protection. WhatsApp believes that this new law in India has not passed all three tests. The first is the lack of clear parliamentary support.
Experts also expressed support for WhatsApp’s views.
Stanford University Internet Observer Riana Pfefferkorn wrote in March: “New traceability and filtering requirements may end India’s end-to-end encryption.”
In Delhi and elsewhere, other court challenges to the new regulations are still pending.
In one of the cases, reporters believed that the extension of technical regulations to digital publishers, including the mandatory implementation of content standards, was not supported by basic laws.