Facebook, Twitter, and other tech giants to fight against India’s new “intermediary guidelines” Reuters reports

According to a report by Reuters released later last month, The Indian Information Technology ministry has proposed rules that will compel major technology giants like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter etc to take down unlawful content affecting the “sovereignty and integrity of India”. According to the rules, this content will have to be taken down within 24 hours of being notified by a court or a government body. These rules are proposed with an aim to achieve the goal of ‘a safer social media’. The proposal drafted by the ministry is open for public comment until 31st January 2019; after which it will be adopted as law, either ‘with or without changes’.

Now, Reuters report that sources familiar with the matter have revealed that the tech giants are all set to fight against these rules that regulate content in India. The country is one of the world’s biggest Internet market with about 300 million Facebook users, more than 200 million Whatsapp users, and millions of Twitter users as well. Reuters also reports that many U.S. and Indian lobby groups representing these top tech companies have started seeking legal opinions on the impact of these rules. They have also been advised by law firms on drafting objections against these rules to be filed with the IT ministry. According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the draft Intermediary Guidelines will  “curb misuse of Social Media for mob lynching and other violence”. Last year, fake messages about child traffickers and kidnappers circulated through WhatsApp sparked mob lynchings in India.

Mozilla Corp. called this proposal “a blunt and disproportionate” solution to regulating harmful online content. The company also added that these rules could lead to the problem of over censorship of online content. Joint secretary at India’s I.T. ministry, Gopalakrishnan S, said that the proposal would ‘make social media safer’ and ‘not curb freedom of speech’.

Industrial executives and civil rights activists agree otherwise. They state that these rules could be used by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase surveillance on the public, given that this proposal comes just ahead of India’s national election to be held in May.

Sources also express their concern to Reuters that the rules will put the privacy of users at stake with round the clock monitoring of online content. This is because the rules require companies with more than 5 million Indian users to have a local office and a nodal officer for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement.

The rules also mandate that on being questioned by the government, companies need to reveal the origin of a message; thus questioning user confidentiality on platforms like Whatsapp that uses end to end encryption to protect user privacy.

Twitter was abuzz with mixed sentiments. While some did support the motive of banishing fake news and misinformation on the internet, others were concerned about targeted surveillance.

 

While the rules come just in time to prevent malicious actors from misusing social media platforms to spread fake news and sway away voters, we cannot help but notice the strict impositions that tech giants will have to face if this draft becomes law.

You can head over to Reuters for the entire coverage of this news.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Security News – Packt Hub authored by Melisha Dsouza. Read the original post at: https://hub.packtpub.com/facebook-twitter-and-other-tech-giants-to-fight-against-indias-new-intermediary-guidelines-reuters-reports/