WhatsApp challenges ‘traceability’ clause, moves Delhi HC against new IT rules

Published: May 26,2021 10:57 AM

Story highlights

WhatsApp has files complaint against the Centre seeking to block the regulations coming into force from May 26.

May 26, 2021: Challenging the new IT rules by the Indian government, Facebook owned Whatsapp has filed a complaint against the Centre seeking to block the regulations coming into force from May 26.

Whatsapp challenged the ‘traceability’ clause in the new guidelines. According to the tech giant, the new guidelines would compel them to break privacy protections.

It further added that ‘traceability’ would force private companies to collect and store who-said-what and who-shared-what for all the messages sent each day. This will require platforms to collect more data than they need only for the purpose of turning it over to law enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile, Whatsapp in its ‘Help Centre’ column stated, “Traceability forces private companies to turn over the names of people who shared something even if they did not create it, shared it out of concern, or sent it to check its accuracy. Through such an approach, innocent people could get caught up in investigations, or even go to jail, for sharing content that later becomes problematic in the eyes of a government, even if they did not mean any harm by sharing it in the first place.”

“The threat that anything someone writes can be traced back to them takes away people’s privacy and would have a chilling effect on what people say even in private settings, violating universally recognized principles of free expression and human rights,” it further added.

The future of several top social media platforms has come under contention after tech giants owning these platforms had failed to comply with Indian Government’s new social media guidelines which were ruled out in the month of February.

According to the new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the social media platforms will have to appoint compliance officers from India. The appointed officers will overlook the complaints, monitor the content on the platforms and remove it if it objectionable.

The guidelines further mention that the committee will have the sole power to take actions on complaints of the violation of codes.

The Ministry notified Information Technology (Guidelines for intermediaries and digital media ethics code) Rules, 2021 on February 25, 2021 for social media intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook as well as OTT platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon.