Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over new media regulations, Reuters reported.
  • The new rules could compel WhatsApp to break privacy protections and identify users.
  • Tensions are building between Narendra Modi's government and social-media platforms.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in Delhi's High Court, challenging new regulations that could force it to break privacy protection for users, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The new rules could ultimately require messages to be traced to specific users. The rules would require WhatsApp to identify the "first originator of information" when asked by authorities, which the firm said would mean breaking its end-to-end encryption for both message senders and receivers, sources told Reuters.

The new law would only require WhatsApp to identify users credibly accused of wrongdoing. WhatsApp argued this is impossible to do with exposing the identity of other users in a conversation, the sources told Reuters.

The lawsuit, first reported by Reuters, said the new rules violated the constitutional right to privacy for more than 400 million WhatsApp users in India.

Sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, Reuters said.

India's government unveiled new rules in February to regulate media companies, which would also require social-media companies to appoint new local compliance officers. The government gave companies a 90-day window before the rules came into effect on Wednesday.

"Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that a requirement to 'trace' private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse," a WhatsApp spokesperson told Insider in an emailed statement.

"WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people's personal messages and we will continue to do all we can within the laws of India to do so."

The legal challenge comes amid escalating tensions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and social-media platforms.

Indian police visited Twitter's Delhi offices earlier this week, after the site flagged posts by a ruling party spokesperson as "manipulated media." The country's tech ministry also asked social media firms to delete the term "Indian variant" from their platforms, referring to the coronavirus variant first identified in India, which spread around the country and overwhelmed its healthcare system.

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