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Madras HC Asks WhatsApp To Prove Its Compliance With IT Act

Madras HC Asks WhatsApp To Prove Its Compliance With IT Act

Madras HC has been hearing the WhatsApp message traceability case

Tamil Nadu government has alleged that WhatsApp is not cooperating with police probes

WhatsApp has 400 Mn monthly active users in India, out of its 700 Mn global user base

Madras High Court has reportedly asked WhatsApp to confirm that it is complying with India’s Information Technology Act, according to a media report which cited the court order. This order is said to have come after Tamil Nadu government accused the social media platform of not cooperating with the police investigation.

The report noted the order saying, “This Court has also put a specific query…as to whether the said social media has taken a specific stand in one of the replies as to the full compliance of the provisions of Information Technology Act and rules framed thereunder.”

It was further reported that the senior counsel (for WhatsApp) is unable to respond immediately and also “prays for some accommodation to find out as to whether any affidavit has been filed to that effect.” 

WhatsApp Traceability Case

With 400 Mn monthly active users, India is the largest market for WhatsApp. Statistically, four out of five smartphone users are using the instant messaging app. With zero to minimum censorship on the platform, it has been used to spread fake news and misinformation, leading to mob lynchings and other internal security issues in the country.

The WhatsApp traceability issue and linking of Aadhaar with social media platforms are currently being heard in the Supreme Court (SC). The original petition was filed in the Madras High Court (HC) in July 2018, demanding to link social media platform with Aadhaar. The Madras HC had expanded the ambit of the case to include tracing the origin of “objectionable” messages on WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has refused to give in because chats are end-to-end encrypted and it would hamper the privacy of the users. The instant messaging app has also maintained that they will have to rework the fundamentals of the app to include these changes.

Earlier this month, Facebook representatives met with the home minister Amit Shah, national security advisor Ajit Doval and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss the social media company’s stance on the traceability issue. 

Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication Nick Clegg had suggested at this meeting that the platform can incorporate the use of metadata and machine intelligence to deal with the traceability issues. Under metadata, Facebook offered basic details such as call duration of “lawfully” identified the user, among others.

The VP also offered to harness WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook linkages to help law enforcement agencies. A Facebook spokesperson reportedly told ET that the Clegg’s attempts are a way to ensure the safety of Indian users while maintaining the privacy of WhatsApp users. However, the government did not agree to the company’s proposals.