The government respects the right of privacy and has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message, the Ministry of Electronics and IT said in a statement on Wednesday after the popular messaging service moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Centre’s new digital rules.
“Such requirements are only in case when the message is required for prevention, investigation or punishment of very serious offences related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material. Right to Privacy is a Fundamental Right,” MeitY said in a press statement.
Whatsapp moves Delhi HC against New Digital Rules
Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has filed a case in the Delhi High Court against the Indian government, seeking to block the new IT rules that come into effect from Wednesday, 26 May.
According to the reports, WhatsApp has filed a petition against the Government of India on May 25 in the Delhi High Court protesting against the new IT rules that require “significant social media intermediaries” like WhatsApp to “trace” the origin of particular messages sent on the service.
The petition asks the Delhi High Court to declare that the new rules as null and void as they ‘violate privacy rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution’, as per WhatsApp.
As per the recently notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, social media intermediaries with more than 5 million users and providing messaging services will have to enable the identification of the first originator of problematic content that may harm the country’s interests and several other provisions described in the rules.
The social media intermediaries like WhatsApp will have to trace the originator of the content on the basis of a judicial order passed by a court or by a competent authority under section 69 of the IT Act. As per the new Digital Media Ethics Code promulgated by the ministry of information technology, social media intermediaries will lose protection from lawsuits and criminal prosecution if they fail to adhere to the code.
As per the new IT Rules 2021, the digital media platforms will now need to have a larger grievance redressal mechanism, which will include a Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer. Besides, all social media platforms are mandated to publish these details on their apps and websites and explain to users the mechanism in place to make a complaint against any content on the platform. These complaints need to be acknowledged within 24 hours of receipt and these complaints need to be actioned upon within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt.
However, while Whatsapp moved the High Court against the New Digital Rules, its parent company, Facebook on Tuesday, 25 May, had said that it would comply with the provisions of Information Technology rules and was in discussion with the government on a few more issues.
“Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” a spokesperson for the company had said.