Privacy, Free Speech, Encryption

India's Ban on Encrypted Messaging Apps: A Disturbing Assault on Privacy and Free Speech

India's ban on encrypted messaging apps undermines privacy and free speech, setting a dangerous precedent for democracy and citizens' rights.

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Publish Date

June 27, 2023

India’s Ban on Encrypted Messaging Apps

“Privacy is not a privilege, it is a fundamental right.” - Edward Snowden

In a shocking move, India, once hailed as the world’s largest democracy, has taken a giant leap towards eroding privacy and stifling free speech by banning encrypted messaging apps on a massive scale. This regressive action, purportedly taken to combat terrorism, sets a dangerous precedent and places India alongside authoritarian regimes like Iran and Russia. The ban not only undermines the fundamental right to privacy but also poses a significant threat to the democratic fabric of the nation.


On May 11, 2023, the Indian government implemented a ban on 14 popular encrypted messaging apps, including Briar, Element, and Threema. The government claimed that these apps were being used by terrorists and their supporters in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby justifying the ban under Section 69A of the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000.

Flawed Arguments

The government’s argument that these apps aid terrorists and threaten India’s sovereignty is questionable at best. Companies like Element have refuted these claims, stating that they have cooperated with Indian authorities in the past, all while preserving end-to-end encryption and user privacy. This raises doubts about the government’s real motives and suggests that the ban may be a strategic move to curtail the use of secure and anonymous messaging apps by Indian citizens.

Democracy Takes an Authoritarian Turn

With this ban, India becomes the first democracy to follow in the footsteps of authoritarian regimes by targeting encrypted communication tools. By taking such drastic measures, India risks sacrificing the very values it once stood for. The government’s actions mirror those of repressive regimes that view encryption as a threat and seek to undermine the privacy and security of their citizens.

Implications for Privacy and Free Speech

“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.” - William O. Douglas

Privacy and free speech are cornerstones of any democratic society. Encryption plays a crucial role in safeguarding these rights, protecting individuals from surveillance, crime, and oppression. However, the Indian government’s decision to ban encrypted messaging apps not only compromises the privacy of its citizens but also undermines their ability to communicate securely.

The Need for Encryption

“Privacy is not about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect. That’s who you are. That’s what you believe in.” - Bruce Schneier

Governments that seek to undermine encryption fail to recognize its role in enhancing national security. Various governments, including France, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the US, have embraced encrypted communication tools like Element. These tools provide secure means of communication and strengthen the security of a nation. By suppressing encryption, India risks making its citizens vulnerable to surveillance and jeopardizes their safety.

Challenging the Ban

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” - George Orwell

The Free Software Community of India (FSCI) has filed a complaint, arguing that the ban violates the right to freedom of speech and expression. They have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and due process in the blocking of these apps. The FSCI, along with other organizations, has urged the Indian government to reconsider its decision and uphold the principles of privacy and free speech.


India’s ban on encrypted messaging apps is a deeply troubling development, representing a severe blow to privacy and free speech. As a democratic nation, India should protect and promote these fundamental rights instead of emulating the practices of authoritarian regimes. The government must revisit its decision, engage in transparent dialogue with concerned stakeholders, and uphold the values that form the foundation of a thriving democracy. Failure to do so risks pushing India further down a dangerous path, where citizens’ privacy and freedom of speech are sacrificed at the altar of state control.


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Rahul Setrakian


I am a passionate and driven learner with diverse skills, seeking impactful collaborations.

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