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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

GS-II :
  • 06 December, 2019

  • Min Read

New norms to make social media more accountable

Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

News: The government said that it was working on rules to mandate social media companies to identify and remove child sexual abuse material, rape images and content promoting terrorism without affecting privacy.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the significance of the move and challenges in its implementation, debate between online regulation and privacy

About the govt’s move

The government has invited public comments on its draft of amendments to the Intermediary Rules 2011 and has received public inputs on the same.

The amendments inter alia propose that intermediaries should proactively identify and remove child sexual abuse material, rape/gang­rape imagery and contents promoting terrorism without compromising accuracy or privacy using technology­based tools and mechanism. The rules are presently being finalised.

Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000, empowers the government to block any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above.

Existing regulations and misuse:

  • In India, social media platforms already come under the purview of the Information Technology (IT) Act, the ‘intermediaries guidelines’ that were notified under the IT Act in 2011 and the Indian Penal Code.
  • Under existing laws, social media channels are already required to take down content if they are directed to do so by a court or law enforcement.
  • There are also reporting mechanisms on these platforms, where they exercise discretion to ascertain whether a reported post is violating community guidelines and needs to be taken down.
  • These, however, have been reported to be arbitrary – many posts on body positivity and menstruation, for instance, have been taken down in the past while other explicit imagery continues to be allowed.
  • Many of the existing regulations themselves are “dangerously close to censorship and may have a chilling effect on freedom of speech, which is why cases are being fought on those in courts.”
  • Another problem of a lot of regulatory measures is the vagueness of language which is exploited by state agencies to behave in a repressive way.

Need for regulations:

The speed and reach of social media has meant that subversive rumours and fake news get aired with impunity. This has resulted in serious law and order problems. In India, this phenomenon has assumed dangerous proportions. Fake news on WhatsApp has led to lynchings and communal flare-ups in many parts of the country. This menace needs to be curbed.

Challenges before the government:

Too stringent a policy of policing social media could violate the individual’s right to privacy.

It’s not easy to force Facebook Inc., the owner of WhatsApp, to give up on the app’s unique selling proposition to the user of complete end-to-end confidentiality.

Way ahead:

Any conversation on additional regulation of social media brings up concerns about privacy and surveillance.

Therefore, any bid at regulating expression online has to be proportional and concrete with adequate redressal mechanisms and without any blanket provisions.

Source: The Hindu


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