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Published 20:43 IST, April 26th 2024

Why WhatsApp is threatening to leave India

The counsel representing WhatsApp and Meta argued that the platform's end-to-end encryption is central and that compromising it would undermine user trust.

Reported by: Business Desk
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WhatsApp | Image: Unsplash
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WhatsApp encryption: Meta platforms-owned WhatsApp LLC told the Delhi High Court on Thursday that it would consider exiting India if compelled to break the encryption of messages, raising the stakes in a dispute over privacy and regulatory compliance.

The counsel representing WhatsApp and Meta argued that the platform's end-to-end encryption is central to its functionality and that compromising it would undermine user trust. They made these remarks during a hearing challenging Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, which requires significant social media intermediaries to identify the first originator of any information upon government or court orders.

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The court was hearing petitions filed by WhatsApp and Meta challenging this rule, stressing the potential consequences of breaching encryption protocols on the platform's operations and user privacy.

Regulatory challenges persist

The Information Technology Rules of 2021 have faced widespread legal challenges across multiple Indian high courts, with concerns raised about their impact on privacy rights and free speech. Various petitioners, including social media companies and news organisations, have questioned the legality and practicality of these regulations.

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The Delhi High Court's deliberations come amid ongoing legal battles surrounding the interpretation and implementation of the IT Rules, reflecting the broader tensions between regulatory oversight and digital freedom in India.

Encryption dilemma

The crux of the dispute lies in the clash between privacy rights and law enforcement objectives. While the government argues that traceability measures are necessary to combat misinformation and illegal content, WhatsApp contends that such requirements undermine the fundamental right to privacy and the integrity of its encryption protocols.

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The outcome of these legal proceedings is likely to have significant implications for the regulatory landscape of social media platforms in India and may set precedents for similar debates globally.

High-stakes legal battle continues

With the Delhi High Court setting the next hearing for August 14, the legal battle over encryption and regulatory compliance in the digital sphere is far from over. Both sides will continue to present their arguments, addressing complex issues of privacy, security, and regulatory oversight in the digital age.

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(With PTI inputs.)

13:46 IST, April 26th 2024