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IT Rules 2021: Facebook, WhatsApp to publish interim compliance report on July 2, full report on July 15

While WhatsApp has challenged the new IT Rules in Delhi High Court, the company’s CEO had said that he hopes to find a solution that doesn’t involve breaking encryption. 

Facebook and WhatsApp will publish an interim compliance report in accordance with the new IT Rules 2021 on July 2, a statement by the social media platform said. Earlier, WhatsApp had moved the Delhi High Court arguing that the rules are unconstitutional and ultra vires of IT Act 2000.

The interim report, for the period May 15-June 15 will contain details of the content that was removed from the social media and messaging platform using automated tools.

“The final report will be published on July 15 containing details of user complaints received and action taken. The report on July 15 will also contain data related to WhatsApp, which is currently being validated,” a Facebook spokesperson told MediaNama.

The IT Rules 2021, which came into effect on May 26, states that significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter have to publish compliance reports every month, mentioning details of complaints the platforms have received and the action they have taken. The IT Rules also require SSMIs to appoint a —

  • Nodal Contact Person
  • Grievance Redressal Officer
  • Chief Compliance Officer

In its lawsuit against the Indian government, WhatsApp argued that this traceability mandate will require the platform to break end-to-end encryption for all its users, which will violate the users’ right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression, and is beyond the scope of the parent Act. They requested the court to:

  • Declare Rule 4(2) of the rules as unconstitutional, ultra vires the IT Act, and illegal.
  • Ensure that there is no criminal liability imposed on the platform for any alleged non-compliance with the said rule.
  • Provide interim relief by staying Rule 4(2) pending adjudication of this lawsuit. The last day to comply with the rules was May 25.

WhatsApp CEO: Hope to find solution to traceability without breaking encryption

In March, before the rules came into force, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart had said that the social media company had explained its concerns around the traceability mandate of the IT Rules and added that the company was hoping to find solutions “that don’t touch encryption”.

WhatsApp, with over 530 million registered users in India (according to figures released by the Indian government), is required by the IT Rules to enable traceability on its platform. This traceability is considered to be antithetical to end-to-end encryption used by messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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