Privacy vs curbs: Rules reflect global trend but sweeping blacklist puts law and order at centre


The notification of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Government’s first transfer to control social media platforms, is, basically, targeted on regulating Big Tech by means of the prism of tackling law and order.

This is an goal broadly aligned to interventions in nations similar to Singapore, Russia and Germany. This is distinct from rules in, say the European Union, the place the person’s privateness is at the centre of coverage.

These guidelines come whilst a Joint Parliamentary Committee is within the remaining levels of dialogue of a privateness Bill that covers elements such because the position of social media intermediaries and the attain of Big Tech corporations, and the privateness accorded to the customers on such platforms.

Asked why the federal government had chosen to come back out with the brand new pointers because the bigger umbrella law on information safety was pending, a senior official stated the principles supplied an “overarching architecture” for corporations to observe whereas the law would nonetheless need to be handed by Parliament.

“There should not be double standards. If an attack is there at Capitol Hill (US Congress), then social media supports police action. But if there is an aggressive attack at Red Fort, the symbol of India’s freedom where the Prime Minister hoists the national flag, you have double standards. This is plainly unacceptable,” Union Law & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stated Thursday whereas saying the brand new guidelines.

Incidentally, Prasad had flagged these points in Parliament earlier this month the place he first introduced the federal government’s renewed intent to concern these norms. Following the Red Fort incident, the federal government had requested US microblogging website Twitter to dam sure accounts and Twitter didn’t instantly reply in a fashion beneficial to authorities.

The new guidelines lay down a sweeping swathe of 10 broad classes of content material that platforms are prohibited from internet hosting. These embrace: content material that “threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or causes incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any foreign States”; “is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy, including bodily privacy, insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, libellous, racially or ethnically objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise inconsistent with or contrary to the laws of India”, and others.

Another key concern introduced up in Thursday’s pointers is that of traceability on messaging platforms like WhatsApp. The authorities stated that for functions of “prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material, punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years”, a messaging platform shall allow identification of the “first originator” of an illegal message.

For a few years now, the federal government has been asking Facebook-owned WhatsApp to permit traceability after there have been instances of deaths on account of mob-lynching wherein messages have been allegedly unfold to mobilise the gang. WhatsApp has denied these requests.

Globally, too, different jurisdictions such because the US, the UK, and Australia have written to Facebook indicating that its plan to increase end-to-end encryption on its messaging platforms mustn’t exclude a way for lawful entry to the content material of communications to guard residents.

Lawmakers in Brazil had additionally proposed a laws to power corporations so as to add a everlasting identification stamp to the personal messages individuals ship, which WhatsApp stated would lead to platforms having to “trace who-said-what and who-shared-what for billions of messages sent every day”.

Furthermore, a number of jurisdictions globally, together with Singapore, Australia, Germany and Russia, have prescribed legal guidelines to forestall illegal content material from being printed on social media.

For instance, in October 2019, Singapore handed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, which gave powers to the federal government to order on-line platforms to take away and appropriate what it deems to be false statements which might be “against the public interest”. This was backed by extreme penal provisions carrying fines of as much as 1 million Singapore {dollars} and a 10-year jail time period.

While Singapore’s authorities introduced within the law ostensibly to curb pretend information on social media, it drew criticism from civil society for utilizing the law to “silence critics and opponents ahead of elections”.

Australia’s “Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act” in 2019 was additionally introduced in following the fear assault in New Zealand the place a taking pictures was live-streamed on Facebook.

Australia launched legal penalties for social media corporations, with doable jail sentences for his or her executives for as much as three years and monetary penalties price as much as 10 per cent of an organization’s global turnover.

Similarly, in early 2018, Germany handed a law relevant to social media corporations with greater than 2 million registered customers within the nation. Under the law, the businesses have been pressured to arrange procedures to overview complaints about content material they have been internet hosting, take away something that was clearly unlawful inside 24 hours and publish compliance updates each six months.


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