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Centre backs off after furore, withdraws controversial Draft Encryption Policy on social media

A controversial draft National Encryption Policy was on Tuesday withdrawn by the Centre following a public outrage over its plans to snoop on every message sent through WhatsApp, SMS, e-mail or any such service.

Addressing a press conference in the national capital, Union I&B Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “An expert committee, after elaborate study, had recommended the need for an encryption policy on social media.”

However, I want to make it clear that the Draft Encryption Policy released yesterday is only a draft, and not the view of the Government, the Minister said.

In view of the concerns raised, I have written to the GoI, DEIT to withdraw the draft, and reword it appropriately, the I&B Minister told reporters further.

Prasad also admitted that there have been “some uncalled for misgivings”, which prompted him to ask the GoI to “withdraw the Draft Encryption Policy and examine it carefully.”

The I&B Minister, however, reaffirmed the Modi government’s commitment to promote social media and various other such platforms .

“Our government fully supports the freedom of social media. We are proud of the steps taken by our government led by PM Narendra Modi ji to promote it. Our government fully supports social media and we respect the right of expression and articulation,” he added.

The reaction from the I&B Minister came shortly after a controversy erupted over government’s plans to snoop on every message sent through WhatsApp, SMS, e-mail or any such service. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology also clarified that social media websites and applications will be exempted from the purview of the draft National Encryption Policy.

The mass-use encryption products, which are currently being used in web applications, social media sites, and social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc are being exempted from the purview of the draft National Encryption Policy, said a proposed addendum to the policy posted on the department’s website.

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