India plans to revise existing policies to regulate social media apps and online services on the grounds of 'unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity.' In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is in favour of making online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and others liable for the content shared by their users. New policies would go into effect by January 2020.
Revising the 2011 policies, the MeitY late last year proposed new regulations and identified all Internet-based services with more than 50 lakh registered users as intermediaries. Meaning, new rules proposed by the centre will be applicable to any social media or user-generated content platform having more than 5 million users. These new rules will also impose additional obligations on social media and online platforms to enable tracing out the originator of the content in question, within 72 hours of such requests made by any government agency.
Social media giant Facebook has already filed a case in India, preventing government agencies from forcing WhatsApp to break its end-to-end encryption reveal the source of messages exchanged on its instant messaging platform. WhatsApp has more than 400 million users in India. Linking of Aadhaar and social media services like Facebook has also been suggested. The central government has sought three months time to finalise the new and revised social media norms to link Aadhaar with social media accounts.
In September, the apex court had asked the Centre to file an affidavit stating the timeframe within which it would formulate guidelines in this regard. The Centre was also asked to inform the court of the existing steps in place to address the issues emanating from the misuse of social media. These rules provide for a redressal mechanism for the protection of the reputation and dignity of individuals and users, said the affidavit, adding that it also touches upon the issue of the purported drawbacks of the emergence of the use of social media and its misuse.
"If on one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand, there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms," the affidavit stated.
The government would initiate more steps to ensure that the intermediaries are made more liable and in pursuance of this, draft Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 was published, it submitted. The top court was hearing a petition filed by Facebook for transfer of petitions pending in different High Courts across the country, that demand to interlink of Aadhaar database with social media profiles for authentication of identity, to the top court.
(With ANI inputs)