Company says Delhi wants to undermine rights to free speech
WhatsApp has launched legal action to stop India enforcing new social media rules effective Wednesday that the tech firm says will break its privacy guarantees.
The regulations come amid growing tensions between the government and social media giants, with police investigating a move by Twitter to brand a tweet by a spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party as “manipulative”.
The new rules demand that social media companies give details of the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India’s sovereignty, state security or public order.
They also require platforms to take down posts depicting nudity or manipulated photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp is alarmed at the bid to trace messages as well a threat of criminal action if it fails to comply.
Its case, filed to the Delhi High Court and obtained by AFP, said the government campaign “infringes upon the fundamental rights to privacy and free speech of the hundreds of millions of citizens using WhatsApp” in India.
“Citizens will not speak freely for fear that their private communications will be traced and used against them,” it added.
A first hearing could be held this week. WhatsApp, which claims 500 million users in India, calls upon the court to declare the rules unconstitutional.
The company has said it will still cooperate with “valid legal requests” for information from authorities.
Facebook and Google have said they are working towards complying with the guidelines though they have sought talks with the authorities.
Indian business groups have also called on the government to delay implementation of the rules, which authorities say are necessary to make social media companies more accountable and to stop the spread of “fake news”.