WhatsApp With India?

Roughly four hundred million people in India use the encrypted messaging platform WhatsApp. Now, the country’s ruling party is trying to force WhatsApp to let the government trace and censor messages. The outcome could change digital freedoms in the world’s largest democracy, and could have strong implications for the future of privacy everywhere.

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Chinmayi Arun
    Resident Fellow, Yale University
  • Vindu Goel
    Technology and Business Reporter, The New York Times
  • Seema Mody
    Global Markets Reporter, CNBC

Show Notes

When social media causes real-life dangers, what role should the government play in regulating it? This question is being asked around the world; in India, a decisive moment has arrived. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to trace and censor private digital communications in the name of national security. Standing in its way is WhatsApp, an American-made, encrypted messaging platform that has become a daily mode of communication for hundreds of millions of Indians. Critics say the BJP’s push is part of a broader consolidation of power and a shift toward ethnonationalism. The digital freedoms of the country’s 1.3 billion people could hang in the balance.


From CFR


The Link Between More Internet Access and Frequent Internet Shutdowns,” Conor Sanchez


Kashmir: What to Know About the Disputed Region,” Lindsay Maizland 


Hate Speech on Social Media: Global Comparisons,” Zachary Laub


Modi’s Thumping Mandate—but for What?,” Alyssa Ayres


Read More


India Adopts the Tactic of Authoritarians: Shutting Down the Internet,” New York Times 


Key Global Takeaways From India’s Revised Personal Data Protection Bill,” Lawfare 


India’s Lynching Epidemic and the Problem With Blaming Tech,” Atlantic


The Rise of a Hindu Vigilante in the Age of WhatsApp and Modi,” Wired


Coronavirus is Pushing Mass Surveillance in India, and It’s Going to Change Everything,” Vice


On Kashmir


The Dueling Narratives of India’s Kashmir Crackdown,” Atlantic 


What Is End-to-End Encryption? Another Bull’s-Eye on Big Tech,” New York Times 


India’s request to WhatsApp for message traceability could impact individual privacy,” Bussiness Today


Watch or Listen


India’s WhatsApp dilemma,” Al Jazeera


How rumors on WhatsApp led to a mob killing in India,” Washington Post


West Africa

West Africa is losing many of its best and brightest. Across the region, doctors, lawyers, and engineers are leaving, depriving some of the world’s youngest countries of the minds they need to develop sustainably. At the same time, coups have rocked the nearby Sahel, threatening to create a corrosive cycle of instability. Can West Africa quell the tide of emigration?

Maternal and Child Health

In the past thirty years, sixty countries have expanded access to abortion care as an underpinning of maternal health. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade made the United States the fourth country ever to decrease access to abortion—and the world took notice. Some countries have since reinforced protections for abortion care, while others have moved to further restrict it.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular man in India. On track to be elected for a third term, he has boosted the country’s global standing and propelled strong economic growth while consolidating power and galvanizing majoritarian support for his Hindu nationalist agenda—all while growing closer to the United States. How could Hindu nationalism reshape India?

Top Stories on CFR

Immigration and Migration

Election 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris is seeking the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination in the wake of Joe Biden's exit from the race.


The closely watched elections on July 28 will determine whether incumbent President Nicolás Maduro wins a third term or allows a democratic transition.