India forces WhatsApp to backtrack on enforcing controversial new policy

The logo for Whats App messaging app arranged on a smartphone

The logo for Whats App messaging app arranged on a smartphone

"We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks".

Despite challenging the new social rules, WhatsApp assured that it "will continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us".

The Indian government was yet to react to the lawsuit. "We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP law comes into effect", the spokesperson added.

The tussle between Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook and the Union government has reached its nadir, with cops raiding Twitter offices in the pandemic earlier this week over the ToolKit controversy.

India's new social rules have come into effect today, on May 26, 2020.

Under pressure from the government to withdraw its controversial privacy update in India, Facebook-owned instant messenger WhatsApp refused to comply, but issued a face saver, saying it will "not limit the functionality" of users at least till the country gets a data protection law. WhatsApp says that one of the new media rules will violate user privacy on its platform. Citing KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India (the 2017 Aadhar judgement), it has prayed for the prevention of criminal liability in the event of non-compliance with judicial orders for traceability. The company is now fighting the same before the Supreme Court of Brazil on a similar matter.

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"While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven't had the chance to do so yet".

On February 25, the Central government introduced 'The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.' These were meant to be complied with by May 26.

WhatsApp, in the past, has said it is open to answering any questions from the government on privacy and that it will continue to explain to users that their messages are end-to-end encrypted.

The new rules mandate that the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, must establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving/resolving complaints from the users or victims.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), in the May 18 notice, had told WhatsApp that deferring the May 15 implementation deadline does not absolve it from "respecting the values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users".

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