WhatsApp Sues Indian Government Over Social Media Clampdown

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(FILES): Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFPWhatsapp

WhatsApp has launched legal action to stop India enforcing new social media rules that would break its privacy guarantees, the messaging platform told AFP on Wednesday.

The regulations, which took effect the same day, come at a time of growing tensions between social media giants and the Indian government, which has demanded tech companies remove content critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

WhatsApp told AFP it had filed a case in the Delhi High Court.

The Facebook subsidiary did not give details of the legal action but made clear its opposition to the new guidelines that would also affect Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.

The new rules demand “traceability” of messages, which requires social media companies to give details of the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India’s sovereignty, state security or public order.

They also require platforms to take down posts depicting nudity or manipulated photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

“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,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

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WhatsApp, which claims 500 million users in India, said it would keep cooperating with “valid legal requests” for information from authorities.

Facebook and Google have said they are working towards complying with the guidelines.

India’s government has said it wants rules that make social media companies more accountable and stop the spread of “fake news”.

But it has been accused of seeking to crack down on criticism from the public.

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Police this week visited Twitter’s offices in New Delhi as part of an investigation into the company’s move to mark a tweet by a spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as “manipulated media”.

Sambit Patra had shared a document that purported to be a plan from the opposition Congress party to malign the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Congress said the document was a fake.

The government last month ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove dozens of posts critical of Prime Minister Modi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Twitter had earlier agreed to a government request to ban some accounts criticising new agricultural laws that have sparked six months of protests by disgruntled farmers.

The platform reversed the ban in February.

AFP

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