Government Seeks WhatsApp's Help By Sharing User Details To Counter 'Deepfakes'

The Indian Government wants to invoke a law in place through which WhatsApp will have to share details of the first sender of messages
WhatsApp has said that such a move will deter user privacy
WhatsApp has said that such a move will deter user privacy

There are many people using the messaging software WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta. However, it occasionally gets exploited to propagate fake videos and undesirable messages during election seasons.

The Indian government is considering utilizing a law that would oblige WhatsApp to disclose who sent the first message in order to stop the spread of fake videos on the app ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, according to a report by Indian Express.

Due to the issue of fake videos of politicians that frequently circulate on the network, the government is demanding information about who initially sent messages. Under the Information Technology (IT) Rules of 2021, the government may also demand the corporation to disclose the identity of those who initially upload such recordings.

“It’s not about partisanship. The videos in question depicted deepfakes of politicians from different political parties. Such fake videos of politicians from across the political aisle have been brought to our notice, which we believe can cause harm to electoral integrity in India. So we are planning to send a first originator notice to WhatsApp,” a senior government official told Indian Express.

Facebook and WhatsApp had filed a complaint against this law with the Delhi High Court in 2021. They said that it might compromise their users' privacy and lead to mass surveillance. The government claims, however, that this restriction won't prevent regular users from using WhatsApp as usual.

Under Section 4(2) of the IT Rules, 2021, the Central government will transmit an order to an Internet platform for the first time directly.

Given that WhatsApp and Facebook contested the clause in Delhi High Court in 2021, claiming it will "severely undermine" their users' privacy, the action may be controversial. The matter is still being decided.

This highlights the conflict between social media platforms and the government over concerns like online misinformation, particularly around elections when such content frequently rises on Internet platforms.

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