IT Ministry mulls third notice to WhatsApp; may insist on message traceability

According to government sources, an internal discussion was held on the issue and a third letter could now be sent to WhatsApp in the next 7-10 days.

IT Ministry mulls third notice to WhatsApp; may insist on message traceability

New Delhi: The IT ministry is mulling sending a third notice to WhatsApp asserting that it bring in 'traceability' of messages on its platform, even as the American firm has maintained that doing so will impact end-to-end encryption and violate privacy of users.

According to government sources, an internal discussion was held on the issue and a third letter could now be sent to WhatsApp in the next 7-10 days.

The IT ministry feels that technical solutions can be found to trace the originator of a message, without actually compromising end-to-end encryption, said a government official, who did not wish to be named.

Citing examples of potential technical solutions that could be brought to the table, the official said traceability can be brought in for a message that has been forwarded to, say, a high number of users within a short span of time.

This will not not entail "looking into the content of the message" but simply identifying the originator of such a message that has gone viral and crossed a certain threshold, the official added.

Following multiple incidents of mob-lynching across the country -- incited by fake news circulated on WhatsApp -- the government had asked WhatsApp to look for ways to track the original sender of such provocative and nefarious messages.

WhatsApp was already been slapped with two notices, with the second one warning that it will be liable to be treated as 'abettors' and can face legal consequences if it remains "mute spectators".

The Facebook-owned company was also asked to set up a local corporate entity that is subject to Indian laws within a defined time-frame as well as appoint a grievance officer.

WhatsApp has turned down the Indian government's demand to provide it with a solution to track origin of messages on its platform saying doing so will affect end-to-end encryption and breach user privacy.

However, WhatsApp had agreed with the other requests, and has also introduced measures to restrict mass forwarding of messages on its platform, curbing it to five at a time.

Fowarded messages now also carry the "forward" label to help users identify such content.

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