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Business News/ Companies / News/  Will cease to function if forced to break encryption, WhatsApp tells Delhi High Court
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Will cease to function if forced to break encryption, WhatsApp tells Delhi High Court

The company said that complying with the IT Rules would require storing vast numbers of messages for extended periods, which no other country mandates

The court was hearing petitions filed by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta challenging Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021. Premium
The court was hearing petitions filed by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta challenging Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

New Delhi: Messaging giant WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Thursday that it would cease to function if it was compelled to break the encryption of messages. “As a platform we are saying [that] if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes," its counsel told the court. WhatsApp added that people use the platform because of the privacy its end-to-end encryption offers, and that breaking it would undermine trust. 

The court was hearing petitions filed by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta challenging Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021. Rule 4(2) says ‘significant’ social media intermediaries (those with more than five million registered users) must be able to identify the first originator of any information (text, photo, video, etc) on its platform when ordered to do so by a court or another competent authority.

Also read: Centre to soon bring amendments to IT rules to curb deepfakes

The company said that complying with the rule would require storing vast numbers of messages for extended periods, which no other country mandates. It said the rule exceeded the scope of its parent law, the Information Technology Act, which does not mandate breaking encryption. When questioned by the bench about similar laws in other countries, WhatsApp confirmed that no other country has made such a request.

The government argued that there must be a mechanism in place to trace the originators of messages, citing the need for accountability. The court acknowledged the need for balance in addressing these concerns and adjourned the case to 14 August, when it will be heard along with more than a dozen other cases challenging various parts of the IT Rules that the Supreme Court had transferred to the Delhi High Court on 22 March.

Challenges galore

The IT Rules, ostensibly meant to ensure accountability on social-media and digital-news platforms, have been challenged in various high courts, including those in Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu for potentially violating privacy rights and encouraging self-censorship. 

Petitioners include social-media companies such as Meta, as well as news organisations such as The Quint, The Leaflet, and LiveLaw. The Bombay, Madras and Kerala high courts have put the implementation of the IT Rules on hold, while the other cases are pending.

Also read: How AI will be a double-edged sword to boost fake news, curb voting manipulations in Lok Sabha polls

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Krishna Yadav
Krishna, a lawyer turned journalist, is a key member of Mint's corporate team. He covers major legal battles in Delhi's courtrooms, with a focus on finance, markets, and policy. Additionally, he crafts easy-to-understand explainers for complex stories and holds a PG Diploma from the renowned Asian College of Journalism.
Catch all the Corporate news and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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Published: 25 Apr 2024, 06:59 PM IST
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