Will WhatsApp Exit India Soon? Here’s What The Platform Informed The Delhi High Court

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The Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has warned the Delhi High Court about its exit from the country. This happened during an ongoing hearing as the platform has filed a petition against one of the Information Technology Rules, 2021. 

Given that WhatsApp has become an integral part of users’ lives, for not just personal but professional communication, its exit from the market could create temporary chaos. Several government networks, educational institutes, and companies use WhatsApp to distribute information.

On the other hand, we’ve also witnessed a rise in scams and frauds on WhatsApp. While some fraudsters impersonate others asking for a short loan, others use romance scams or phishing to blackmail users or extract their information. Let’s discuss why the platform has threatened to exit the country and under what circumstances.

WhatsApp “Goes” If Forced To Break Encryption

WhatsApp Passkey

In a submission to the Delhi High Court on April 25, WhatsApp said, “As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes [from India].” Representing the messaging platform is advocate Tejas Karia. The court is hearing the platform’s petition against Rule 4 (2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

During the session, Karia argued about WhatsApp’s commitment to privacy and encrypted communication (wherein even the platform doesn’t know or record users’ conversations). The app states that the new rules are unconstitutional and violate its users’ privacy.

To comply with the rule, WhatsApp would have to store billions of messages for several years (requiring millions worth of servers and IT infrastructure to manage them). Further, Karia also mentioned that such a requirement is not present anywhere else. 

What Is The Rule 4(2) Of The Information Technology Rules, 2021?

What Is The Rule 4(2) Of The Information Technology Rules, 2021?

Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, is a crucial piece of legislation. It mandates that ‘a significant social media intermediary providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial order passed by a court.’

However, it also puts some restrictions on such rulings, stating that an order shall only be passed for “prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offense related to the sovereignty and integrity of India.” Further, it also mentions that no such order shall be passed in cases “where other less intrusive means are effective.”

Those who wish to review the rules can click here to read the official document issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

What’s The Government’s Take On The Petition?

Advocate Kirtiman Singh, on the central government’s behalf, said it is crucial to trace message originators. Singh emphasized that several government bodies also use the app to circulate important information to citizens. 

Opposing the petition, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has said in an affidavit that the platform has already violated the fundamental rights of Indian users by denying dispute resolution rights. 

The ministry also highlighted the importance of identifying those who circulate fake messages, as they could disturb national peace and harmony. For now, the case has been adjourned to August 14, 2024.

Does WhatsApp Not Store Users’ Messages Already?

Per the platform, WhatsApp only stores messages on its servers until they are delivered to the intended receiver. Once delivered, messages are stored locally on the sender and receiver’s devices. However, if a message remains undelivered, WhatsApp stores it for a maximum of 30 days.

Users can create regular backups and store their messages in the cloud if they want. 

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Shikhar MehrotraShikhar Mehrotra
A tech enthusiast at heart, Shikhar Mehrotra has been writing news since college for an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. Over the last four years, he has worked with several national and international publications, including Republic World, and ScreenRant, writing news, how-to explainers, smartphone comparisons, reviews, and list-type articles. When he is not working, Shikhar likes to click pictures, make videos for his YouTube channel, and watch the American sitcom Friends.

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