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.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer

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


Center for Preventive Action

The world is entering a new era of great-power competition. As U.S. policymakers look ahead, it pays to know what global threats to anticipate. Every January, the Council on Foreign Relations publishes a survey that analyzes the conflicts most likely to occur in the twelve months ahead and rates their potential impact on the United States. But can the country prepare itself for mass immigration, cyberwarfare, and nuclear tensions while still cooperating with adversaries on global issues such as climate change?

Global Governance

In 2022, several colossal events dominated the headlines, most prominently the war in Ukraine and the worldwide inflation that it helped spark. But beyond Ukraine, events with global implications continued to unfold. In this episode, Why It Matters checks in with three CFR fellows and CFR President Richard Haass to understand the least-covered stories of 2022 and to take a peek at what could await the world in 2023.

Technology and Innovation

For years, the world thought of the internet as a borderless zone that brought people from around the world together. But as governments pursue very different regulatory paths, the monolithic internet is breaking apart. Now, where there had been one, there are at least three internets: one led by the United States, one by China, and one by the European Union.

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