This March 10, 2017 file photo shows the WhatsApp communications app on a smartphone, in New York. (PATRICK SISON / AP)

WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court on Monday let Meta Platforms Inc's WhatsApp pursue a lawsuit accusing Israel's NSO Group of exploiting a bug in the WhatsApp messaging app to install spy software allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.

The justices turned away NSO's appeal of a lower court's decision that the lawsuit could move forward. NSO had argued that it is immune from being sued because it was acting as an agent for unidentified foreign governments when it installed the "Pegasus" spyware.

President Joe Biden's administration had urged the justices to reject NSO's appeal, noting that the US State Department had never before recognized a private entity acting as an agent of a foreign state as being entitled to immunity.

Meta, the parent company of both WhatsApp and Facebook, in a statement welcomed the court's move to turn away NSO's "baseless" appeal.

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"NSO's spyware has enabled cyberattacks targeting human rights activists, journalists and government officials," Meta said. "We firmly believe that their operations violate US law and they must be held to account for their unlawful operations."