India tightens regulatory grip on Facebook, WhatsApp with new rules

The rules -- part of an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist government to tighten the leash on Big Tech -- come after Twitter recently ignored government orders to drop content related to farmers' protests. India is the largest market by users for both Facebook and its messenger service WhatsApp. The new rules issued by the government, called the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, will be legally enforceable. They will require big social media companies to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and within three months appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.

Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: 26-02-2021 03:00 IST | Created: 26-02-2021 02:58 IST
India tightens regulatory grip on Facebook, WhatsApp with new rules
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI

India announced new rules on Thursday to regulate content on social media, making Facebook , WhatsApp and others more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and sharing details on the originators of messages. The rules -- part of an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist government to tighten the leash on Big Tech -- come after Twitter recently ignored government orders to drop content related to farmers' protests.

India is the largest market by users for both Facebook and its messenger service WhatsApp. The new rules issued by the government, called the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, will be legally enforceable.

They will require big social media companies to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and within three months appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement. Social media firms should be "more responsible and accountable," Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister for information technology, told reporters in outlining the rules.

Big social media firms will be obliged to remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order, according to the rules. The government also said companies need to assist in probes or other cyber security-related incidents within 72 hours of receiving a request. They must also disable within a day any post depicting an individual in a sexual act or conduct, said the rules, a draft copy of which was reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

IT minister Prasad also told reporters the rules would oblige the companies to reveal the originator of a message or post when legally ordered. Facebook said it welcomed rules that prescribe ways to address challenges on the web. "The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules," it said in a statement. Facebook-owned WhatsApp declined to comment.

A Twitter spokesman said the company would study the guidelines and looked forward to continued engagement with the Indian government. "We believe that regulation is beneficial when it safeguards citizen's fundamental rights and reinforces online freedoms," he said in a statement.

CENSORSHIP RISK Tech firms are coming under tighter scrutiny worldwide. Facebook faced a backlash last week from some publishers and politicians after it blocked news feeds in Australia in a dispute with the government over revenue-sharing.

That prompted last-ditch changes by Australia in a law passed on Thursday to ensure Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook pay media companies for content, a step that nations such as Britain and Canada want to follow. India's rules will also require video-streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video to classify content into five categories based on users' age, the government said.

Online news media will also be regulated as part of the new rules, with the ministry of information and broadcasting creating an oversight system, the government added. Apar Gupta, the executive director at advocacy Internet Freedom Foundation, said the new rules for digital news media portals and video-streaming platforms posed risks to freedom of speech.

"To fix the problems in these sectors the government has adopted an approach which carries the risks of political control and censorship," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Tracking Fintech during COVID-19: Harnessing power of technology

Its abundantly clear now that as fintech cements its place in the financial sector, accelerated further by the COVID-19 pandemic, it could open the sector to new possibilities by harnessing the power of technology to deliver financial ...

Tectonic turns: How technology shaped healthcare over the decades

Tracing an episodic evolution, with technology at the interface of human and his health....

World Water Day sees crises of inequality in countries both rich and poor

... ...

Privacy and data protection: Reviewing notable policy frameworks

The evolved privacy principles and the resulting legislation across the world primarily aim to force the data collector to define the purpose for which the data is being collected along with the need to obtain explicit consent for the said ...

Videos

Latest News

Plea in SC seeks transfer of petitions relating to uniform civil code from Delhi HC to apex court

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to transfer from the Delhi High Court to the top court, pleas related to framing of a uniform civil code to promote fraternity, unity and national integration. The petition fi...

Australian portrait photographer June Newton dies at 97

The Australian photographer and actress June Newton also known under her pseudonym Alice Springs has died at 97, the Helmut Newton Foundation said Saturday in Berlin.Newton, who was also the wife of the late photographer Helmut Newton, di...

Rugby-England seal Women's Six Nations final spot with big Italy win

Centre Emily Scarratt scored 24 points as champions England sealed a place in the final of the Womens Six Nations with a nine-try 67-3 bonus-point victory over Italy at the Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma on Saturday. The massive win was a secon...

St. Vincent awaits new volcanic explosions as help arrives

Extremely heavy ashfall rained down on parts of the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent on Saturday and a strong sulfur smell enveloped communities a day after a powerful explosion at La Soufriere volcano uprooted the lives of thousands...

Give Feedback