Centre in HC defends IT rule requiring WhatsApp to trace originator of message

Updated: few hours ago

New Delhi, Oct 22 (PTI) The Centre has defended in the Delhi High Court the legal validity of its new IT rule requiring messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, to “trace” the first originator of the information, saying that the law empowers it to expect such entities to create safe cyberspace and counter illegal content either themselves or by assisting the law enforcement agencies.

The Centre said that Section 87 of the Information Technology Act gave it the power to formulate Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules -- which mandates a significant social media intermediary to enable the identification of the first originator of information in “legitimate state interest” of curbing the menace of fake news and offences concerning national security and public order as well as women and children.

In its affidavit filed in response to WhatsApp's challenge to the rule on the ground that breaking the encryption invades its users' privacy, the Centre has claimed that platforms “monetize users' information for business/ commercial purposes are not legally entitled to claim that it protects privacy”.   “Petitioners (WhatsApp and Facebook), being multi-billion dollar enterprises, almost singularly on the basis of mining, owning and storing the private data of natural persons across the world and thereafter monetizing the same, cannot claim any representative privacy right on behalf of the natural persons using the platform,” said the affidavit filed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.