Govt told to spell out stand on FB, WA pleas against IT rules

Wednesday 01st September 2021 07:02 EDT

The Delhi high court sought the Centre’s stand on petitions by Facebook and its instant messaging platform WhatsApp challenging the new IT rules for social media intermediaries on the ground that these require messaging services to “trace” the originator of a particular message.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh asked the Centre, represented by its ministry of electronics and information technology, to file a reply by October 22 to the petition as well as application to stay the implementation of the rules.

During the hearing, the counsel for the Centre tried to seek an adjournment, but advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook respectively, urged the court to issue notice. WhatsApp, in its plea, said the requirement of intermediaries enabling the identification of the first originator of information in India upon government or court order puts end-to-end encryption and its benefits “at risk.” WhatsApp has urged HC to declare Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules as unconstitutional, ultra vires to the IT Act unconstitutional as it requires to enable the identification of the first originator of information.

“Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermine people’s right to privacy,” it had stated earlier.

The traceability clause says a significant social media intermediary providing services shall enable the identification of the first originator of information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial order passed by a court or order passed under IT Rules, 2009.

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