To discuss the alternatives, Clegg met India’s federal Home Minister Amit Shah, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on 12 September. Clegg told the Indian ministers about Facebook’s firm stance on not compromising on the privacy of WhatsApp users.
Citing WhatsApp user privacy and end-to-end message encryption, as an alternative to absolute traceability, Facebook suggested the use of metadata and machine intelligence to help the enforcement agencies determine the basic details of suspicious WhatsApp communications, such as call durations, to investigate the spread of any fake news in India, local media reported on Sunday.
With nearly 400 million monthly active users, India is the largest market for WhatsApp.
Due to the free and easy availability of the messaging platform, the app has previously been exploited in India to spread provocative motives and misinformation in the country.
In a bid to curb the spread of misinformation in India, in early December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
The proposed amendments require companies to enable the tracing of originators of information on their platforms if required by legally-authorised government agencies.
WhatsApp had categorically stated that the Indian government’s demand that it provide absolute traceability of messages was not possible, because it would undermine the security of user data.
After fake and propaganda messages on WhatsApp led to incidents of mob lynching and other internal security issues in India, Facebook in July had limited text forwarding facility to just five chats at a time in India, along with a “forwarded” tag for messages sent from other groups and chats.