India News

WhatsApp Files Lawsuit Against Central Government, Claims New IT Rules Violate Right to Privacy

WhatsApp LLC, the company owned by Facebook that provides the popular Whatsapp messaging service,  filed a complaint at the Delhi High Court against the Indian government’s new digital regulations claiming that they violate the privacy of its users, Reuters reported.


WhatsApp LLC filed its complaints against one of the new rules in the digital regulations that would force it to enable “identification of the first originator of information”, a provision that it alleges is in violation of India’s constitutional privacy rights. Whatsapp claimed that to comply with the new rule it has to break its “end-to-end encryption” for messages.

On February 25, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) introduced new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021 to regulate content in OTT platforms, social media intermediaries and digital news media which were slated to come into effect after 90 days, on May 25.

According to the new IT Rules, the social media intermediaries including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have to establish a ‘grievance redressal mechanism’ for receiving and resolving complaints from users or victims; remove child pornography, videos relating to rape or any kind of nudity and remove or disable access to such content within 24 hours of receiving complaints. It will have to identify the originator of disputed content without providing any information to the originator.

Citing a case from 2017 where the Supreme Court of India ruled that privacy must be preserved except in cases where legality, necessity and proportionality necessitate it, WhatsApp argued that with the “lack of explicit parliamentary backing”, the new rules fail all three of those tests.

The new IT Rules also seek these social media intermediaries to appoint officers who are Indian citizens to key compliance roles that have oversight over the additional due diligence required for removal of content. Abiding by the new IT Rules will also hold “significant” social media intermediaries accountable to Indian laws and in case they fail to adhere to the code, it will lead to their loss of protection from lawsuits and criminal prosecution.


Whatsapp’s parent company Facebook has invested heavily in India, with over 400 million WhatsApp users in the country. The increasing intervention of India’s Central Government in social media could jeopardize the viability of social media companies in India.

While Facebook has agreed to most of the provisions and “aim to comply” with most the new rules and seek to negotiate with the Government on areas that it disagrees with, Google has cited its “long history” of managing content in accordance to local laws assuring the Indian Government that it will continue to ensure legal compliance.

Twitter, which is  embroiled in a dispute with  India’s ruling party over the labeling of a tweet as “manipulated media” is yet to respond to the new IT Rules.