The government has invited feedback on the recent proposal by the IT Ministry to amend Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. According to the proposed amendment, the intermediaries (mainly the social media) should remove or disable access to the unlawful content within 24 hours of being notified by the appropriate authority.
The government claims that the move is in “interest of the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country. The amendment seeks to break end-to-end encryption and track the messages or “unlawful” online content.
The government released a statement that the proposed rules will check the misuse of social media platforms and will also curb the spreading of fake news. The statement cited the examples of several mob-lynchings which reportedly happened because of the rumors spread over WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
The proposal was discussed on Friday with the representatives of all the major social media giants–Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ShareChat. Also, the officials from SEBI and the Internet Service Providers Association of India were present. The Centre has asked the companies to submit their feedback by January 7 and the process is expected to be completed by January 15.
However, WhatsApp has reportedly expressed its dissent over the proposal. It is unwilling to break the end-to-end encryption which is unique to the platform. The government, however, claimed that it only wants to trace the source of hate messages such that rumor-mongering can be stopped. It also claimed that it is committed to the freedom of speech and expression and the privacy of citizens. The government assures that the final decision will be taken only after consulting all the stakeholders.