Critics said the new rules were being used to silence critics of the government. Last month, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were ordered to remove dozens of social media posts that criticized Mr. Modi’s government and its response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the country. Government officials said the posts should be cut as they could incite panic and hamper its response to the pandemic.
Social media companies have responded to many requests by making the posts invisible inside India, although they are still visible to people outside the country. In the past, Twitter and Facebook have reposted content after determining that it did not break the law.
Tensions between tech companies and the Indian government escalated this week when police raided Twitter offices in New Delhi to challenge tags on some tweets from senior government officials. While Twitter’s offices were empty, the visit symbolized growing pressure on social media companies to curb speech seen as critical of the ruling party.
Facebook and WhatsApp have a long working relationship with authorities in dozens of countries, including India. Generally, WhatsApp has said it will respond to legitimate requests for information and has a team that assists law enforcement officials in emergencies involving imminent harm.
It is only rarely that WhatsApp has been rejected. The service has been shut down several times in Brazil after the company resisted requests for user data from the government. And he clashed with US officials who sought to install “backdoors” in encrypted messaging services to monitor criminal activity.
But WhatsApp argued that even if it tried to enact India’s new “traceability” rules, the technology would not work. Such a practice is “inefficient and highly prone to abuse,” the company said.
Other tech companies and digital rights groups like Mozilla and the Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week they support WhatsApp’s fight against “traceability.”