In the wake of the current political scenario prevailing in the country, the Indian Government is set to take a drastic step that is sure to create a stir among the social media users here. Not just in India but around the globe, the governments have raised concerns about the contents being circulated in social media platforms. According to the new set of revised social media rules and guidelines that are expected to be published soon, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Tiktok will have to expose user anonymity if compelled by the government.
These guidelines were proposed by the Indian government back in December 2018 as to keep a check on child porn contents, fake news and videos, terrorism-oriented articles and racist and abusive topics, but was turned down by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, a trade group that includes members like Amazon.com, Facebook Inc., and Alphabet Inc when sought for a public comment mentioning that “it would be a violation of the right to privacy recognized by the supreme court.”
However, according to concerned officials, these rules and guidelines are thought to be published without much alteration and tailoring by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology by the end of this month.
The media advisor to the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology N.N. Kaul has stated that “The guidelines for the mediators are still under process and it might be inappropriate to comment on the amendments until they are published.”
Assessing the clauses of the initial draft, the social media platforms will have to back the Indian government in ferreting out the source of the content within 72 hours of an inquiry and will also have to retain the record for a period of 180 days to assist the government inquiries. Apart from this, they will also have to start a brick-and-mortar operation in India and appoint both a government liaison and a grievance officer as well to monitor the user complaints. The Ministry is yet to work out the content and language.
All social media and messaging apps with over 5 million users are to be covered under these new proposed guidelines. It is not yet confirmed if the foreigners residing here will also fall under the borderlines of this rule.
The various law enforcement agencies in the world are furious by the companies that have declined to identify users, unlock devices or blatantly cooperate with the investigations, specifically in the cases pertaining to terrorism. Clearly, it is an ethical dilemma that these social media sites are facing, given that they need to protect the users and their right to privacy on one hand, and cooperating with the authorities in the fight against anti-social elements on the other.
The most widely used social media and messaging app WhatsApp recently refrained from revealing the source of rumors so as to keep their promise to the 400 million Indian users and rather offered to contribute research into the prevention of circulation of fake news and contents and also started a public education program in the country. WhatsApp has also ensured the safety of its 2 billion global user base and has promised not to put them in turmoil compromising on their privacy and anonymity.
The tech companies and civil rights groups have claimed that the new set of rules is draconian and has a tendency to trigger new dimensions of censorship and abuse.
This report was originally published here.