On Friday, the Rajya Sabha — Indian Parliament’s Upper House — expressed its helplessness about their inability to check objectionable content uploaded on popular messaging service WhatsApp.
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WhatsApp messages are encrypted end-to-end and no third party can access them, making it impossible for the government to be able to apply their ‘moral’ standards and block ‘objectionable’ content.
“Instances of objectionable videos being uploaded through mobile phones and shared through WhatsApp have been noticed. According to WhatsApp, the messages are end-to-end encrypted and they and any third party cannot read them. In other words, the messages are only seen by the sender and the receiver,” said Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Congress member Raj Babbar had put up a question in the Rajya Sabha that whether or not the government plans to stop sharing of objectionable videos through mobiles and WhatsApp.
Prasad mentioned in his reply that once the content is reported, the government can take action as it has laws in place. He also cited that even though WhatsApp has a feature which allows users to report objectionable content, but it seems redundant.
“WhatsApp provides a feature to report any objectionable content. However, they also admit that since they do not have the contents of the messages available with them, it limits their ability to take action. A user can take screenshot of the content and share it with appropriate law enforcement authorities,” he added.
The Minister also mentioned that the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended in 2008, provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting objectionable contents including sexually explicit and obscene material.
“Concerned law enforcement agencies take necessary action for violation noticed or reported as per the law,” he said.
Earlier this year, a 30-year-old resident of Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka (India) was arrested for sharing a morphed image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his WhatsApp group.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp users in China were reported to be experiencing difficulties in sending messages, photos and videos to their contacts as the Chinese government is tightening its grip over the internet.