WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in Delhi against the Indian government aiming to block regulations coming into force on Wednesday that experts say would compel the California-based Facebook unit to break privacy protections, sources said.
The legal complaint, 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 the complaint had been filed in court by WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, nor when it might be reviewed by the court. The people with knowledge of the matter declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Tensions grew after the police visited Twitter’s offices earlier this week. The micro-blogging service had labelled posts by a spokesman for the dominant party and others as containing “manipulated media”, saying forged content was included.
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.