Here’s how WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Twitter have responded to Indian govt’s new IT rules

While Facebook and Google will comply with the new rules, WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the government.
WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Google, New IT Rules, India IT Rules Here’s how WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Twitter have responded to Indian govt’s new IT rules
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Earlier this year in February, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) introduced new IT rules in the country. The agency had given all social media platforms a three-month deadline that ended on Wednesday to comply with the new rules. The new IT rules, specifically the new intermediary guidelines, have received a mixed bag of reaction from the social media tech giants in the country. While major key players like Facebook and Google have agreed to comply, Facebook’s subsidiary WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the government in Delhi High Court opposing the new regulations.

So here’s everything you need to know about India’s new IT rules and how the major tech companies have responded to them.

WhatsApp vs India’s new IT rules

In the lawsuit against the Indian government, WhatsApp has asked the court to declare one of the new IT rules as a violation of the privacy rights of social media users, as per a Reuters report. The messaging app says that this particular rule forces the social media companies to trace the “first originator of information” on their platforms, whenever the government demands it. This law will essentially compel WhatsApp to go against its own policy of end-to-end encryption of every single message on its platform.

For the uninitiated, end-to-end encryption ensures that messages forward across the intended person are read by no one, including WhatsApp. However, the new intermediary regulation in the new IT rules is asking WhatsApp to do the exact opposite of end-to-end encryption. “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 undermines people’s right to privacy. We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users”, a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

Facebook and Google to comply with new rules

WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, on Tuesday announced that it will comply with the Indian government’s new intermediary guidelines under the IT rules. However, there’s no word when the company is planning to implement the new rules. “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform”, said a Facebook spokesperson.

As for Google, the search engine giant’s CEO Sudhar Pichai said that Google is committed to complying with local laws. Pichai also added that "It's obviously early days and our local teams are very engaged... we always respect local laws in every country we operate in and we work constructively. We have clear transparency reports, when we comply with government requests, we highlight that in our transparency reports”.

Talking about Twitter, the company said that it will “strive to comply with the applicable law”. However, the social media platform is planning to ask for changes to portions of the new IT rules, which inhibit the free speech of its users. “To keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law," said a Twitter spokesperson.

It’s worth mentioning that under the new norms, social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Google etc. will be held more accountable and responsible for content on their platforms. The big tech brands are now required to appoint a chief compliance officer to address issues raised by the government regarding content on their platforms. Along with a compliance officer, the social platforms are also asked to hire a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer based out of India. In addition, the tighter regulations will require the social media platforms to remove any content flagged by appropriate authorities within 36 hours of demand. Also, these platforms will have to remove any post depicting nudity or morphed images within 24 hours.

Are the new rules going to change the way you use WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter?

Coming to the major question, are the new rules going to change the way you use these platforms? Well, the simple answer is “No”, unless you are breaking any laws or distributing offensive posts, and follow the community guidelines. That said, for now, most of the media platforms will continue to work as the way you were using them before the whole new IT rules situation happened. 

Why WhatsApp is against new IT rules?
The messaging app says the new regulations demand it to go against its user privacy policy.

Who is Google's CEO?
Google's current CEO (Chief Operating Officer) is Sundar Pichai, who is of an Indian origin.

Who owns WhatsApp?
WhatsApp's is a subsidiary of the social media platform Facebook, which also owns Instagram - a popular image sharing platform.

What are the new IT rules in India?
As per new IT norms, social media companies in India will have to trace the "first originator of information" on their platforms, whenever government demands for it.