The Indian government might be invoking a contentious law compelling WhatsApp to reveal the identity of the original sender of a message. This comes in the wake of the proliferation of AI-driven misinformation on the platform. As the general elections in 2024 loom, there’s a growing threat of the circulation of deep fake videos on various platforms. Deep fakes are digitally manipulated videos that mimic a person’s exact appearance.
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The government’s move signifies the first instance of it directly issuing an order to an internet platform under Section 4(2) of the IT Rules, 2021.
#ExpressFrontPage | This would be the first time that the Central government will directly send an Internet platform an order under Section 4 (2) of the IT Rules, 2021.https://t.co/bmhzJDZadI
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) October 16, 2023
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WhatsApp and Facebook have previously contested this provision in the Delhi High Court, arguing that it could compromise user privacy. This ongoing legal battle exemplifies the ongoing tension between social media platforms and the government concerning issues like online misinformation, especially during elections.
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The Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, indicated the government is open to formally issuing a notice to WhatsApp, aiming to tackle counterfeit videos and audio being disseminated anonymously via messaging platforms. According to the IT Rules, online messaging services must disclose the identity of the initial sender of a specific message on their platform. WhatsApp has expressed apprehensions regarding this provision, asserting that it jeopardizes its end-to-end encryption system. In contrast, the government maintains that it won’t affect regular users.
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Crucially, end-to-end encryption is a fundamental feature of messenger apps like WhatsApp, ensuring users’ privacy by preventing access to communications, both messages and calls, by both the government and the platform itself.
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