India Orders WhatsApp, Google to Save Data on Mob Attack
By Newley Purnell and Krishna Pokharel
NEW DELHI--An Indian court ordered Facebook Inc.'s WhatsApp and
Alphabet Inc.'s Google to preserve data connected to an attack on a
university campus earlier this month in the latest attempt by
authorities in the country to wrangle more control over the
messaging and search giants.
According to an attorney involved in the case, the Delhi High
Court said Tuesday that the companies, local police and university
authorities must try to save messages, photos and videos connected
to the attack on Jan. 5, when several dozen people stormed the
campus of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, injuring 32
students and two faculty members.
The attack on what is seen as one of India's most liberal
universities came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya
Janata Party has aggressively pushed a series of measures the
party's Hindu nationalist base has long sought. Critics say these
policies are discriminatory and undermine India's tradition of
The investigation into the attack is being closely followed in
India, where weeks of large-scale protests have been held against a
controversial new citizenship law recently passed by the
Abhik Chimni, a lawyer for three professors from the university
who had petitioned the court, said attackers used WhatsApp groups
to plan the assault and access to the chats could help identify the
attackers and their motivations.
"We want those behind these groups and the attack on the
students and teachers at JNU to be held responsible," Mr. Chimni
Facebook and Google didn't immediately respond to questions
about the court's decision.
WhatsApp has consistently said that messages exchanged on its
platform are encrypted, unreadable in transit, and can't be seen by
authorities or WhatsApp itself. WhatsApp has more than 400 million
users in India, which is its largest market.
Rumors spread on the platform in recent years have led to mob
violence in India. The company has previously clashed with the
Indian government over access to users' messages.
With its 1.3 billion people, only about half of whom are yet
online, India is the world's biggest untapped tech market, with
inexpensive smartphones and mobile data fueling a boom in
e-commerce, social-media consumption, music and video
Unlike China, which put up barriers to American firms, India has
been relatively open to foreign players. But New Delhi has begun
making life more difficult U.S. firms, which now dominate the
On Monday the country's antitrust watchdog ordered a probe into
whether Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.'s Flipkart have violated
competition laws. After Walmart in 2018 signed a $16 billion deal
to acquire online-shopping startup Flipkart, India tweaked its
rules governing how foreign-owned e-commerce companies sell goods
Write to Newley Purnell at email@example.com and Krishna
Pokharel at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 14, 2020 06:23 ET (11:23 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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