India’s top court seeks WhatsApp’s response on petition alleging it breaches law

The Indian government says Whatsapp has pledged to develop tools to combat the kind of fake messaging that has led to a series of mob beatings across the country. (Reuters)
Updated 28 August 2018
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India’s top court seeks WhatsApp’s response on petition alleging it breaches law

India’s top court has asked WhatsApp to respond to a petition that alleges it breaches certain Indian regulations, creating another headache for the Facebook Inc-owned firm already facing pressure in India over fake news.
In an order seen by Reuters on Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court asked the messaging service to respond to the petition, filed by a Delhi-based think-tank called the Center For Accountability And Systemic Change (CASC), within four weeks.
WhatsApp does not comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000, which mandates “the appointment of Grievance Officer by all intermediaries.” the CASC says in its petition a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters.
“It is also required to have a Grievance Officer for users in India. Yet, it is being allowed to continue with its Payments and other services, without any checks,” the petition added.
The Indian IT Act mandates intermediaries or carriers of content like WhatsApp, to appoint a Grievance Officer, to handle any queries, concerns or issues that users of the platform may have that do not come under the purview of other authorities.
WhatsApp declined to make a comment specifically about the litigation or their response to it but a spokesman for the messaging service said it has both an Indian corporate entity and a grievance officer for Indian users.
The grievance officer that the spokesman referred to is based in California, also handling India-related issues.
WhatsApp is working on having a grievance officer based in India following talks with the technology ministry, the spokesman said.
India’s technology, home, law and finance ministries as well as its telecoms regulator are also among the respondents named in the public interest litigation and will have to respond to the court notice in four weeks.
“To run Payments Service in India, WhatsApp is obligated to have its office and servers in India,” the petition added.
A lack of clarity over the Indian central bank’s directive for storing data of Indian customer locally has delayed the launch of WhatsApp’s inter-bank money transfer service, which is already in testing, a source told Reuters earlier.
Another source said India wanted WhatsApp to have a local head and team that manages local operations before it receives clearance for the formal launch of the payments service.
WhatsApp, which has more than 200 million users in India, has also had to battle the spread of rumors and false messages on its platform that have led to mob killings and sparked calls for action by authorities.
In a meeting with the technology minister this month, WhatsApp pledged to do more to combat the spread of misinformation even though it has said it will not weaken encryption.


Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

Updated 19 February 2019
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Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

  • Dutt's account was blocked after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her
  • Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence”

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: One of India’s best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc. on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.
Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.
Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.
She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.
“I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter’s encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality,” said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.
Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence.”
Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.
“If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.
The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.
Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen’s rights on social media and online news platforms.
The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.
Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.
Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.
Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.
Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.