Indian authorities to regulate social media platforms

picture credits-BBC

Indian government plans to introduce rules to regulate social media as it believes that unregulated platforms can cause “unimaginable disruption” to democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a legal document.

It has been stated by the Indian authorities that “strict action” against the companies would be taken, if the social media is allowed to be misused for fanning violence , spreading misinformation and creating disharmony in the country.

Union minister for electronics and IT , Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated , “India is open to criticism but strict action will be taken if the companies do not control fake news be it – twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp”. Prasad further added, “you can work in India, have crores of followers, we respect that. You can earn money here but you will have to follow the government’s laws and Indian constitution.”

This comes after a stern rebuke was administered to twitter by the Indian authorities for not complying with its request to block certain accounts on social media , which were responsible for spreading misinformation. The widespread agitation against farm laws in India has led to greater scrutiny of the India’s internal affairs by foreign institutions.

Amidst chaotic rhetoric and misinformation, which has the potential to ignite political unrest, Indian authorities, to maintain status quo, had requested the platform to comply with the request.

Uncharacteristically, twitter failed to acquiesce and termed the request as the violation of freedom of speech. This has drawn intense criticism from Indian authorities who blame the microblogging platform for its bias. An Indian minister stated “…when there is violence in US capitol, social media platforms stand by police investigation but when red fort is breached, the same platforms go against the Indian government? Red fort is the symbol of our pride. We won’t allow this double standards”.

As a matter of fact, it is not quite feasible and acceptable for the social media platforms to support and popularize hashtags supporting massacre and genocide. It has also been noticed, that in recent times various social media platforms have been defying the authority of Indian administration.

As for WhatsApp, it had been reported that the social media platform had particularly through their new privacy policy targeted Indians and not Europeans, who weren’t required to share their data. It is about time that Indian authorities exercise their right to regulate despicable non complying elements in the society.

However, it is to be also noted, that in the pursuit of exercising authority , right to speech shouldn’t be curtailed , as it is one of the founding pillars of the democracy. A recent suggestion in parliament to regulate OTT platforms like Netflix doesn’t really bring forward Indian authority’s democratic attribute. On the contrary, it brings out Indian authorities’ sensitivity to criticism.

The government requires three months to formulate the rules to regulate social media platforms offered by companies such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. to curb circulation of fake news. The Rules will help in curbing growing threats to “individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security,”  A spokesman at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology stated.

India joins a growing list of nations seeking to regulate social media in a bid to combat false information. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration plans to crack down on crimes committed online and to fight fake news. But the critics worry the rules can be used to curb free speech and invade users’ privacy rights.