from the we-can't-have-people-bad-mouthing-the-government-and-getting-away-with-it dept
Here comes the inevitable government backlash against WhatsApp rolling out end-to-end encryption for one billion users worldwide: if governments can no longer demand access to communications, the next best thing is to demand access to WhatsApp users.
According to India resident Prasanto K. Roy, local governments are demanding that administrators of WhatsApp groups (the latest beneficiaries of the encryption rollout) register with the local magistrate, and will apparently hold them accountable for any "irresponsible remarks" or "untoward actions" by members of the group.
The government's unsubtle man-in-the-middle approach to accessing WhatsApp communications also involves placing a literal government man in the middle, according to the Times of India.
The spokesperson also said that a government representative might also have to be added to the WhatsApp group as an admin. "If any government admin is present in a WhatsApp group, it will immediately prevent any sort of rumour-mongering," he said.Whenever a government agency develops an overweening urge to curb "rumor-mongering," one can be sure that particular government is fucking something up somewhere. And, indeed, that is the case here.
The government had imposed a blackout on mobile internet in the troubled area after clashes between security forces and protestors claimed the lives of five people. The area had seen protests after the alleged molestation of a teenager by security personnel. The mobile internet blackout had been aimed at curbing the spread of potentially inflammatory messages that could spark further tension in the area.It would seem to me the tension was created by the alleged molestation, the government's lack of interest in investigating/punishing the wrongdoer and the killing of five people. The government appears to be more interested in saving itself from its constituency, so the obvious move is to shut down any communication platform that it can't monitor or control. It can't kill WhatsApp, so it's demanding to be inserted into these conversations -- either directly or by lurking just offscreen whispering legal threats.
Not only that, but the quelling of dissent extends to the government itself. The flier also notes punishment awaits government employees who find the registration demand heavy-handed.
Govt. Employees serving in the district are directed to restrain from making any comments/remarks with regard to the policies and decisions of government on these WhatsApp groups running in the district and if anyone found involved in such activities, strict action will be initiated against them as required under rules.Looking beyond this local dispute that has managed to drag in the world's most popular messaging service, one can see why it is essential that citizens have communication platforms that keep the government locked out. Encryption doesn't just "protect" criminals from law enforcement and innocent people from criminals. It also protects the innocent from their governments' self-serving overreach.