Govt imposes curbs on WhatsApp, license mandatory to make groups

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SRINAGAR: The government of Jammu & Kashmir has issued a notice saying that if you want to create a WhatsApp group in the state you will need to register and get a license.
The notice from the office of the district magistrate of Kupwara says that all the group admins of the existing WhatsApp news groups in the district have to register themselves in the office within 10 days. The notice declares that this move will help stem the spreading of rumours in the area.
That’s not all, the administration has made clear its intentions to keep an eye on WhatsApp groups and that admins will be held responsible for all goings-on. 
Government employees have been instructed to refrain from questioning or commenting on the new diktats.
The notice also said that the police will take action against those who post incendiary messages on WhatsApp.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit yesterday amidst a protest against civilians being shot in Handwara, said: “There is a mini India in Jammu and Kashmir. Dream to do something and not to become someone. India will lead the 21st century because the energy required for it is with us. India has 800 million youth power which is below 35 years. Dream of every youth can become a progress story for the country,” Modi said during his visit.
“Monitoring the groups is very hard. And it is absurd to hold the Admin responsible for everything on the group. Admins can add or remove people, they can’t control the content people post on the group. The government should understand that WhatsApp is not the only medium to communicate. There are many apps which allow making groups. They should use social media for monitor the activites in a manner that doesn’t throttle freedom of speech,” said Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at SFLC.in (Software Freedom Law Centre, India)
Recently, WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption few days ago, much to the chagrin of governments who felt this move would create roadblocks in surveillance.

What Modi’s spoke of WhatsApp in 2015

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NEW DELHI: Following a public uproar over threat to privacy, the government today withdrew the draft encryption policy which made it mandatory for storage of all messages, including social media, for 90 days.
“I personally feel that some of the expression used in the draft are giving rise to uncalled-for misgivings. Therefore, I have written to DeitY to withdraw that draft, rework it properly and thereafter put in the public domain,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.
Generally, all modern messaging services like WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Google Chat, Yahoo Messenger and the like come with a high level of encryption and many a time, security agencies find it hard to intercept these messages.
“Yesterday, it was brought to our notice that draft has been put in the public domain seeking comments. I wish to make it very clear that it is just a draft and not the view of the government. I have noted concerns expressed… by the public,” Prasad said.
As per the original draft, the new encryption policy proposes that every message a user sends — be it through WhatsApp, SMS, e-mail or any such service — must be mandatorily stored in plain text format for 90 days and made available on demand to security agencies.
Prasad said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted social media activism.
“The right of articulation and freedom, we fully respect but at the same time, we need to acknowledge that cyber space transaction is rising enormously for individuals, businesses, the government and companies,” Prasad said.
The draft proposed legal action that could entail imprisonment for failure to store and produce on demand the encrypted message sent from any mobile device or computer.
The draft, issued by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, was applicable on everyone, including government departments, academic institutions, citizens and for all kinds of communications — be it official or personal.
Besides, all service providers located within and outside India that use encryption technology must register themselves with the government, as per the draft.
Prasad, however, maintained that there’s need for an encryption policy which would apply to those who are involved in encrypting a messaging product “for a variety of reasons”.
The policy was proposed under section 84 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 through an amendment in 2008.

 

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