Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp on Thursday has indicated that it will not comply with the Indian government’s suggestion to trace the origins of messages that are used to spread false information, PTI reported quoting the company’s spokesperson. The company official cited its policy on end-to-end encryption as a reason for its stance on the matter.
The development follows a meeting between Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and WhatsApp Chief Executive Officer Chris Daniels in New Delhi on Tuesday. Prasad had said that they discussed solutions to technological challenges related to the messaging application in India and that he had asked the firm to appoint a grievance officer in India to tackle problems.
The company’s official said people use the app for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks and families. “Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse,” the spokesperson said. “WhatsApp will not weaken the privacy protections we provide. Our focus remains working closer with others in India to educate people about misinformation and help keep people safe.”
During their meeting on Tuesday, Prasad told Daniels that WhatsApp must properly comply with Indian laws. “We won’t appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America,” Prasad had said. “WhatsApp has become an important component of India’s digital storage and must have a proper corporate entity located in India.”
Daniels declined to comment on what was discussed during the meeting.
WhatsApp has been under fire from the government over fake news being circulated its messaging platform. Several people have been lynched to death across India this year after mobs fell for rumours circulated through WhatsApp.
On July 19, the Indian government warned WhatsApp of legal action if it did not put in place adequate checks to stop the spread of misinformation. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which Prasad heads, said it has approached WhatsApp to go beyond the existing efforts of labelling forwarded messages and identifying fake news.