India’s new IT laws and Why Tech Giants should toe the line instead of bullying the Govt.

Information Technology (intermediary guidelines and Digital media ethics code) rules 2021, has been framed in exercise of powers under section 87(2) of the information technology act 2000 and in supersession of the earlier information technology (intermediary guidelines)Rules 2011.

What the new law says About Twitter and Facebook-
India has a total of-

 WhatsApp users – 53 Crore (530M)

YouTube users – 44.8 Crore (448M)

Instagram users – 21 Crore (210M)

Twitter users – 1.75 Crore (17.5M)

Keeping these numbers in mind India must have better data protection and regulation laws, making Twitter and Facebook more accessible to public in terms of grievances and complaints redressal and also the contents published on the platforms without infringing upon the right to Freedom of Expression of Indian Citizens.

The New IT rules touch upon several topics –

  • Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries –
  • Grievance redressal mechanism-Ensuring online safety and dignity of Users, Specially women users-
  • Two categories of social media intermediaries-
    Social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries ( Facebook, twitter etc.)Additional due diligence to be followed by Significant social media intermediary;
  • Appoint a Chief Compliance Officer  (shall be a resident in India).
  • Appoint a Nodal contact person (24*7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, resident in India).
  • Appoint a Resident Grievance officer.
  • Publish a monthly compliance report.
  • Voluntary user verification  mechanism.
  • Giving users an opportunity to be heard.

This is important In the current context-

Removal of Unlawful Information-

An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorised officer, should not host or publish any information which is prohibited  under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.

In February Australia passed new laws requiring Google and Facebook to pay the local Media outlets for news content linked to  their platforms’ newsfeeds or in search results. 
Facebook in retaliation at one point went for a news blackout in the country of Australia while Google made a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to feature content on their google newsfeeds including an ad revenue sharing agreement. 
A week after this furor between Facebook and Australian govt. a ripple effect is felt in entire world prompting many countries to consider such laws to hold these Tech Giants more accountable.
In Europe and North America, the situation isn’t different. Google also came to an agreement with Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale, a group representing French publishers like Le Monde, and Le Figaro and others- a CNBC report said.
In Canada, Heritage minister Steven Guilbeault has committed to legislation that would force Google and Facebook to pay for the news on their platforms. 

In USA, Facebook and Google have been subjugated to Congress hearings several times due to Data privacy and Protection concerns.

Florida’s New law-On Monday, May 24, 2021 Florida became the first US state to approve fines on tech giants that permanently bar political candidates in the state. This law is in direct response to twitter and facebook banning Former US president Donald Trump from the platform as per a NYT report. 

What Facebook has to say –

In india, on May 25, one day before the new IT laws come into effect , Facebook said- 
”We aim to comply with the provisions of the new IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT rules, we’re working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies”

With regards to WhatsApp’s new updated privacy policies, WhatsApp says it won’t limit functionality for users who are not accepting new privacy policy. 

If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product- this famous line from the social dilemma might help you understand how these tech-giants became bigger than govt. and how they started running things on their own. it’s high time they start following the law of the land.

Germany in May 2021, proceeded to not allow WhatsApp implement its updated Privacy policy and Europe might consider the same not allowing Facebook use WhatsApp data for personal advertising uses. 

Banning Twitter, Facebook in 21st centaury, when these platforms are used by masses to express themselves, share information, connect to other people, shouldn’t be considered instead Govt. and Tech Giants should work together while being accountable and following the law of the land, not just in India but everywhere.

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