Sources said that WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in Delhi, requiring the Indian government to ban the effective regulations on Wednesday. Experts say this will force the Facebook department in California to undermine privacy protection.
The lawsuit, described to Reuters by people familiar with it, asks the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the new rules is a violation of privacy rights in India’s constitution since it requires social media companies to identify the “first originator of information” when authorities demand it.
While the law requires WhatsApp to unmask only people credibly accused of wrongdoing, the company says it cannot do that alone in practice. Because messages are end-to-end encrypted, to comply with the law WhatsApp says it would have break encryption for receivers, as well as “originators”, of messages.
Reuters could not independently confirm that the complaint was filed by WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, and does not know when it will be subject to court review. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, the person who did not want to be named was identified.
A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment.
The lawsuit intensifies the growing struggle between the government of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tech giants including Facebook, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Twitter in one of its key global growth markets.
After the police visited Twitter’s office earlier this week, tensions intensified. The Weibo service has marked the posts of the spokespersons of dominant political parties and other organizations as containing “manipulated media,” saying they include fake content.
The government has also pressed the tech companies to remove not only what it has described as misinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging India, but also some criticism of the government’s response to the crisis, which is claiming thousands of lives daily.
The response of the companies to the new rules has been a subject of intense speculation since they were unveiled in February, 90 days before they were slated to go into effect.
The Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, promulgated by the ministry of information technology, designates “significant social media intermediaries” as standing to lose protection from lawsuits and criminal prosecution if they fail to adhere to the code.