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Last Updated : Feb 14, 2019 12:02 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

WhatsApp is worried about Centre's demand for more oversight, but it will not pull out of India

Carl Woog of WhatsApp said the app would cease to exist in its current form if new measures are introduced, adding that even WhatsApp cannot access users' chats

Vaibhavi Khanwalkar @vaiitoh

The government's skirmish with social media companies is getting worse, with WhatsApp in the net after Facebook and Twitter. To prevent violent incidents and spread of child pornography, the Centre wants more oversight of WhatsApp chats, even if that means providing access to encrypted messages. But the cross-platform messaging application is refusing to allow this change.

"Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages. These changes are going overboard and are not consistent with strong privacy protections that people around the world are seeking," Carl Woog, WhatsApp's Head of Communications, told IANS.

He said encrypted chats can only be seen by the sender and receiver, not even by WhatsApp. He added that the app would cease to exist in its current form if these measures are introduced. "Given the end-to-end encryption we have in place, the regulations will require us to re-architect out product," he stated.

WhatsApp cannot leave the India market

There have been reports that the Facebook-owned messaging service may pull out of the Indian market over the government's growing demands. WhatsApp officials have maintained that dialogue is on with the Centre and have said nothing about leaving the app's biggest market.

It seems unlikely that the app would pull out of its biggest market. Since February 2013, it started gaining popularity in India and scaled new heights every year. It was taken over by Facebook in 2014. The app had crossed 1.5 billion users in January 2018 and had 200 million daily users in India at the end of 2017.

Statistic: Number of monthly active WhatsApp users in India from August 2013 to February 2017 (in millions) | Statista

Not just that, it has become an important tool in India's political campaigning and analysis. Political parties design social media strategies specifically for WhatsApp. Message chains and groups help the politicians deliver messages to voters directly in their phone, which apparently gives a 'personal touch'. Internet was much more expensive in 2014 general elections but with the price of data going down and the number of users multiplying, the app will play a key role in the upcoming elections.

Also read: Opinion | Has WhatsApp called India’s bluff on fake news?

Fake news crisis

WhatsApp was under the government's scanner in 2018 when many violent incidents were reported across the country due to fake information forwarded on the app. The company promised to work with the establishment and bring about changes specific to the Indian market.

It introduced features with regard to 'forwarded' messages and also conducted workshops and roadshows in India to educate users on how to verify information. The company said on February 13 that it banned two million accounts per month globally for sending bulk or automated messages.

Not just in India, but in other countries like Brazil, WhatsApp has been in trouble with the authorities. During Brazil's presidential elections in October last year, the Centre had raised concerns that the app was being used to distort the ongoing political debate.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have also been targeted by the government to safeguard the privacy and rights of citizens on social media.
First Published on Feb 14, 2019 12:02 pm
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