The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote a letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart calling on the Facebook-owned messenger app to withdraw proposed changes to its terms and conditions, PTI and CNBC Awaaz reported. The move represents a significant escalation of the concerns surrounding WhatsApp’s fresh terms, which seek to make it easier for user data to be shared with Facebook’s other products, and third party businesses. The government has also reportedly asked WhatsApp some questions about the changes; the company had earlier said that it would be willing to answer any questions from the Indian government.
— Aseem Manchanda (@aseemmanchanda) January 19, 2021
MediaNama has reached out to WhatsApp for comment, and to MEITY for a copy of the letter. The changes in WhatsApp’s terms will not go live immediately; the company reacted to the widespread debate surrounding the changes by deferring implementation until May 15. Millions of users have been flocking, meanwhile, to alternative apps like Signal and Telegram. However, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart told PTI that this did not translate to any significant churn, as most users have not uninstalled the Facebook-owned app.
WhatsApp last corresponded with MEITY in 2018 over the issue of fake news, where the companies exchanged two rounds of letters — made public by MediaNama — over mob violence and lynchings where false information forwarded on WhatsApp led to widespread concern over the app’s potential for stoking violence. MEITY had then said that if WhatsApp didn’t remedy the situation, it may be considered an “abettor”.