Why WhatsApp Would Rather Exit India Than Follow This Contentious Govt. Rule?

WhatsApp’s lawyer told the Delhi High Court that the messaging platform would have to exit India if required to decrypt messages.

What Happened: This statement was part of a hearing on Thursday where WhatsApp and its parent company, Meta, challenged the 2021 IT rules for social media that mandate tracing chats to identify the original sender.

The 2021 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, introduced on February 25, 2021, apply to major social media platforms like X, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, demanding compliance with new norms.

Lawyer Tejas Karia, representing WhatsApp, argued to Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, "If we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes."

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He explained that complying with such a rule would require storing and potentially decrypting millions of messages over many years, something that no other country, including Brazil, currently mandates.

The bench noted that the matter needs comprehensive arguments from both sides and remarked that privacy rights are not absolute, suggesting a need for balance.

The lawyer for the Centre emphasized the importance of the rule in cases like communal violence where objectionable content spreads rapidly across platforms.

The court scheduled further hearings for August 14, awaiting the consolidation of related petitions from various high courts by a Supreme Court order.

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