It’s Congress vs Congress Over WhatsApp’s End-to-End Encryption: Here’s Why


The Congress has sought to haul the government over the coals for its standoff with social media platforms on the issue of end-to-end encryption, but a parliamentary committee headed by senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had last year recommended permitting the breaking of end-to-end encryption to trace the distributors of child pornography.

In the wake of its latest stand-off with WhatsApp, which has approached the Delhi High Court over the new IT Rules, the government on Wednesday said an order to trace the first originator would only be passed in an offence relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material.

An adhoc committee of Rajya Sabha, which presented a report last year, had recommended modifying the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 to include the ability to trace the originator of the message shared on end-to-end encryption platforms in cases where child sexual abuse material that has been shared has come to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

The committee was set up with Ramesh as the chairman to study the alarming issue of pornography on social media, and its effect on children and society. It consisted of 14 MPs, including from the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party.

The Congress, however, has now termed the new IT rules draconian and said the government is acting like a “big daddy”.

But Ramesh Thursday tweeted, “Text depends on context. The cross-party Ad-hoc Committee I was asked to Chair by @MVenkaiahNaidu was to study the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as a whole. Recommendation applies to that alone. Report is in public domain.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Wednesday said the technological backbone of privacy was end-to-end encryption and without the same, it was akin to keeping a camera open in one’s bedroom or drawing room.

“That is why end-to-end encryption is important. They (social media firms) can only find the first originator of the message by breaking the end-to-end encryption,” Singhvi said.

He added that the Modi government was the first to create a “social media police” and make the IT Ministry the “principal police station” for social media platforms.

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