We’ve brought the first-ever lawsuit over government use of WhatsApp and Signal to make key decisions

We’ve filed the first ever lawsuit challenging ‘government by WhatsApp’, along with our partners, the Citizens.

Together, we are suing the government to stop ministers making major decisions over apps like WhatsApp and Signal, where messages can be set to disappear. 

This follows reports that officials are making more and more key decisions on these apps – on everything from government contracts to the coronavirus response.

We think this poses a major political and legal problem, because evidence of critical government decisions – such as evidence for the future Covid inquiry – may be lost. 

The most shocking proof of officials using WhatsApp may be the screenshots published by former Number Ten adviser Dominic Cummings on his blog, revealing heated debates about the struggling test and trace system and the cost of ventilators (as well as the Prime Minister’s concerns about whether his Health Secretary was ‘f**king hopeless’).

There are others. A recent Byline Times report revealed fateful discussions over whether to release patients from hospital into care homes without a negative Covid test took place over WhatsApp, with a government source saying: “The entire COVID-19 response was being conducted over WhatsApp messages.” 

All of these discussions would be relevant for the forthcoming Covid inquiry. Under the existing unlawful scheme – disclosed in an earlier stage of these legal proceedings – such messages will only survive if someone happens to screenshot them. 

This is unlawful under the Public Records Act of 1958 which requires legal checks to be made on all such messages in case they need to be kept for the public interest.

Unlike automatic deletion of emails, where there is a period that a deleted email can be recovered, for example, to answer a FOIA request, when WhatsApp or Signal messages are deleted they are gone for good. That’s why we are going to court!

We are crowdfund raising to cover the costs associated with taking this case and you can support the case by hitting the button below.

This crowdfunder is to raise funds to support the Citizens’ cost risks associated with their case. If for some reason they don’t need to spend all the donations on their case or if they don’t end up in court, a refund will, of course, be offered. Should you choose not to request a refund the donations will be split evenly between the Citizens and Foxglove. Please contact us if you’d like more information about this.