Now, social media platforms under govt surveillance 

Now, social media platforms under govt surveillance 

After authorising ten central agencies to intercept data on any computer, the government now plans to amend the IT rules wherein social media platforms and messaging apps will be required to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content as well as follow stricter due diligence practices.

The IT ministry officials held a meeting last week with senior executives of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other companies to discuss the proposed changes in the Information Technology (IT) rules.

In a detailed statement made in July in the Parliament, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had emphasised the government's resolve to strengthen the legal framework and make social media platforms more accountable under the law. WhatsApp had drawn flak from the government after fake messages circulating on its platform had triggered incidents of mob violence in various parts of the country. Fake news has been an issue globally for social media giants. WhatsApp, on its part, has taken a number of steps including the introduction of a forward label to help identify such content.   

In quick pointers, DH brings you the government's draft proposal that seeks to make 'social media platforms' accountable under the law

1. According to the draft amendment proposed to the IT rules, which pertain to social media and other online platforms with respect to content, automated tools will have to be deployed to identify and disable "unlawful content".

2. The platforms would have to inform its users to refrain from hosting, uploading or sharing any content that is blasphemous, obscene, defamatory, "hateful or racially, ethnically objectionable".

3. The platforms or intermediaries with over 50 lakh users in the country will be required to have a permanent registered office in India with a physical address. This is likely to impact most international social media platforms given that India is a key market for them.

4. These platforms will have to appoint a nodal officer in India for round-the-clock coordination with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the rules, the draft said.

5. The intermediary -- after a court order is communicated or being alerted by a government agency -- will have to remove or disable access "as far as possible immediately, but in no case later than 24 hours".

6. The platforms will inform their users at least once a month that if the rules are violated, access and user rights of consumers can be terminated.

7. These internet companies will also have to preserve relevant records for 180 days for investigation purposes or longer periods if required. 

The government last week had authorised ten central agencies to intercept data on any computer, a move that had triggered a political storm with Opposition accusing the Centre of trying to create a "surveillance state". On Monday, the government said it is committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens, amid criticism from certain quarters over larger implications of the amendments. 

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