No roadmap to check objectionable content on WhatsApp, admits government


The government on Friday virtually expressed its helplessness about checking objectionable content uploaded on online messaging site WhatsApp as they are encrypted end-to-end and no third party can access them.

The government can take action once the content is reported as it has laws in place, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Congress member Raj Babbar in the Rajya Sabha in reply to a question.

The member had asked whether the government has any plan to stop sharing of objectionable videos through mobiles and WhatsApp.

In the answer, Prasad cited laws that deal with offences of publishing or transmitting objectionable contents. He admitted that instances of objectionable videos being uploaded through mobile phones and shared through WhatsApp have been noticed but added that messages are end-to-end encrypted and cannot be seen by a third party.

"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," he said in the reply.

"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 further said 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.

There have been instances of anti-social elements using WhatsApp to fan communal passions in the recent past.


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