The message, that has been circulated across many WhatsApp groups and is tagged with ‘forwarded many times' label, falsely claims that WhatsApp is bringing new communication rules for messages and calls that will connect devices to the government. It also mentions that the new system will allow the law enforcement authorities to take action against people posting messages and videos against the government.
All the claims specified in the message are false as WhatsApp has not announced any updates to its system. The existing methodology to show ticks or check marks for read receipts also remains the same as before. This means that you'll only see grey and blue ticks, depending on the status of message delivery and your WhatsApp settings.
It is also important to note that WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption for your personal messages.
“WhatsApp defines end-to-end encryption as communications that remain encrypted from a device controlled by the sender to one controlled by the recipient, where no third parties, not even WhatsApp or our parent company Facebook, can access the content in between,” the company notes in a whitepaper defining its end-to-end encryption mechanism.
This clearly means that third parties including the government or even WhatsApp itself can't decrypt the messages being circulated among individuals and only senders and receivers will be able to read them. The encryption, however, doesn't work if you are communicating with a business account on the app. But in that case as well, WhatsApp has not natively allowed the government to access any communication.
Importantly, this is not the first time when a message claiming an update in WhatsApp's communication system has been in circulation. A similar message was posted in several groups on the messaging app and on social media last year as well. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) at that time refuted the claims and clearly said that the government was not accessing any messages sent over WhatsApp or taking action against their senders.
That said, the timing of the fake message is interesting as WhatsApp is currently defending its stance of not complying with the provisions of the new IT rules in India. The Facebook-owned company even filed a lawsuit against the government earlier this week and said that the new rules would impact user privacy. The government also responded to WhatsApp and criticised its move.