Updated May 26, 2021 - Technology

WhatsApp sues India's government over new media rules

In this photo illustration taken on November 6, 2020, a user updates Facebook's WhatsApp application on his mobile phone in Mumbai.

Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against India's government in the Delhi High Court Wednesday over new rules requiring the company to make users' messages traceable.

Why it matters: The Facebook-owned encrypted messaging service says the regulations that take effect Wednesday violate users' privacy, which it argues is in breach of the country's constitution.

What they're saying: "Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that a requirement to 'trace' private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse," a WhatsApp spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Axios.

  • "WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people’s personal messages and we will continue to do all we can within the laws of India to do so."

The big picture: Tech giants are facing increasingly hostile foreign governments that are taxing their profits, attempting to halt their acquisitions, labeling them as monopolies and passing laws to limit their powers, per Axios' Ashley Gold.

  • In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has clashed with Big Tech over what it has called pandemic misinformation, as COVID-19 cases surge across the country.
  • Elite antiterrorism police officers visited Twitter's New Delhi offices Monday night over a warning label the firm had issued on some tweets, the New York Times notes. Critics say the real reason is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is upset over public criticisms of its pandemic response.

Of note: While it's unusual for WhatsApp to file a lawsuit against a government, the company said it has "consistently opposed legal action that would break end-to-end encryption."

  • WhatsApp currently has a legal case before Brazil's Supreme Court that is challenging the constitutionality of blocking messaging apps.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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