Will WhatsApp exit India? Messaging giant raises concerns over fake news, political 'misuse'

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 07 February 2019, 06:12 PM
Facebook-owned WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption by default. (Representational Image: PTI)
Facebook-owned WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption by default. (Representational Image: PTI)

WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India, on Wednesday said that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies are threatening the very existence of WhatsApp in its current form.

With 2019 Lok Sabha Elections just months away, the government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.

The government recently also proposed to amend IT rules, wherein social media, online platforms and messaging apps will be required to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content as well as follow stricter due diligence practices.

"Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages," Carl Woog, WhatsApp's Head of Communications, told IANS on the sidelines of a media workshop.

Without denying the possibility of quitting the India market in case the new regulations come into force, Woog said that WhatsApp maintains that it is a platform for private communications and bans phone numbers that are associated with abnormal messages or communication trend. He said that the messaging app ban nearly two million suspicious accounts every month.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption by default which means only the sender and the recipient can see the messages in circulation – not even WhatsApp. Without this feature, Woog explained, WhatsApp will be a completely new product.

India is WhatsApp's biggest market in the world. Globally, the platform has over 1.5 billion users.

"We read submissions that many eloquent experts in India have filed to the government over the last several days and we agree with them that proposed changes are overbroad and are not consistent with strong privacy protection that are important to people everywhere not just in India but around the world. What is contemplated by the rules is not possible today," Woog said.

He said that the company is creating space for private conversations online and proposed rules, if implemented, will require WhatsApp to re-architect the app leading to a different product "one that will not be fundamentally private."

The popular messaging app also said that it has observed misuse of the platform by political parties in India and it is taking measures to fight bulk messaging and coordinated abuse on its platform. "We have seen a number of parties attempt to use Whatsapp in a way that was not intended and our firm message to them is using it in that way will result in bans of our service," WhatsApp Head of Communications Carl Woog told reporters.

Declining to name the parties or give the exact nature of the alleged misuse, he said that there is concern that party workers could abuse the platform by using automated tools for mass messaging or spread false news to sway voters.

"We are trying to be very clear going into elections that there is abuse of Facebook-owned messaging app and we are very working very hard to identify and prevent it as soon as possible," he said.

With PTI Inputs 

First Published: Thursday, February 07, 2019 11:08 AM
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