WhatsApp Files a Court Petition against the Government

Archana Verma
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While Twitter went viral yesterday with jokes about the new social media law of the government of India, WhatsApp has taken a strong exception to it and filed a case in the Delhi High Court, citing violation to privacy as a reason to its objection to the new law, which requires the giant social media platforms to turn over the original sender of the messages and also other details of the messages to the government when asked for. Meanwhile, Gmail began to display a message on top of its email template, assuring that they don't share the emailers' messages with anyone.


The government's rules for social media said that messaging platforms would need to make provisions for the "identification of the first originator of the information".

 WhatsApp has filed a petition asking the court to declare the rules "unconstitutional."
It should be remembered that India is the biggest market for these giant social media platforms and compromising on the privacy of the message senders can damage their prospects in India, where most people are highly sensitive about the their right to privacy.
It must be remembered that WhatsApp had devised a means to share business related information from the users early this year, evoking a large scale migration of many users to Signal. Later, WhatsApp postponed this plan.
In this case however, the rules will apply also to Signal and Telegram, so the people will have no choice in this matter.
It must be mentioned that especially Signal is designed to not collect any information and hence, this rule can seriously obstruct its functioning.
What it Means for the IT MSMEs
MSMEs in the IT sectors have many professional groups on WhatsApp where they discuss related matters and also devise future business strategies related to their organisations. They engage in energetic discussions on these platforms. Many of these details are of sensitive nature and the group members wouldn't like to turn over the details openly.
Further, a message poster sometimes may not realise that his or her message can be construed by the government as illegal and hence, they may get caught in unnecessary trouble when no harm was intended.
A large number of message posters may go to court against the government and vice versa, increasing the number of court cases without much reason and hence, waste a lot of court time unnecessarily.
Further this not only violates the right to privacy, but also it violates the freedom of expression, as pointed out in another post on this topic (click here to read).
As this post is being written, we have received the news that IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that WhatsApp users have nothing to fear about new social media rules, that are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.Prasad said that the government welcomes criticism including the right to ask questions.
Read more from Dr Archana Verma by clicking here.