#ITRules: All WhatsApp messages will not be decrypted, says minister
Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday that the government does not want all WhatsApp messages decrypted. WhatsApp has argued that the government's new IT Rules, which require the messaging app to trace the "first originator of information," would break its end-to-end encryption, thereby undermining privacy. Prasad said the government will only track those involved in certain crimes.
Speaking to ANI, Prasad said, "We don't want all messages to be decrypted. It is my word that all ordinary users of WhatsApp can continue to use it." He said, "If any content goes viral, causing mob lynching, riots, killing, showing women in nudity, sexual exploitation of children, only in these limited categories, you'll be asked to declare who started the mischief."
He further added, "If there are viral messages causing mayhem here, which originated from across the border, then who started it in India? That's all we are seeking. This is in public interest." The new regulations had invited criticism for being "anti-privacy."
The minister also spoke on the government's row with Twitter. However, he chose to call it an issue between Twitter and its users, not Twitter and the government or the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The new rules urge social media platforms to set up a three-tier grievance redressal framework and remove content within 36 hours of a legal order.
Prasad said Twitter's users must be given a forum in case of misuse/abuse. He said Twitter was required to comply with the rules within three months (exhausted on May 26). "Others have followed, they haven't," he said. "We gave them the last opportunity as a goodwill gesture." Non-compliance may lead to them losing their intermediary status and becoming liable under other laws, he said.
Prasad said foreign companies have to follow the law of the land, just as Indian companies are required to when they set up bases globally. He said Twitter is free to run its business and provide a platform to others to criticize the government.
Prasad said, "When these profit companies start lecturing us on democracy, I would like to ask a question." "India is a democracy as elections are fair. We won Assam and lost Bengal. The independent judiciary asks tough questions. The media questions senior ministers. That's freedom of speech and democracy. Under the garb of these, if you won't comply with rules, it's a misplaced argument."
"I would like to flag that if Twitter has a norm of declaring a particular tweet as manipulated/unmanipulated, why was it not applied in the Ghaziabad case?" Prasad asked, adding that the government is not in the favor of banning any platform.
Recalling January's US Capitol riots, Prasad noted that Twitter had blocked the accounts of several conservatives and then-President Donald Trump. However, the violence that ensued during the farmers' protest in February at the Red Fort was viewed as "freedom of expression," he claimed. He also addressed the issue of Twitter taking a fortnight to remove a map showing parts of Ladakh as Chinese territory.