India proposed new guidelines for social media companies that require them to actively monitor contents posted by its users and the social media companies are not happy about it. The new proposed IT rules, which arrived as the general elections are on the brink, dictate that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter remove unlawful content that can affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India” within 24 hours.
The proposal by the government is open for public comments until Januar 31, after that it will be adopted as law with or without any changes.
Now, Social media companies are setting up to fight against India’s proposed guidelines. According to Reuters, the US and India lobby groups have contacted law firms, on the impact of the proposal, to draft objections to the guidelines to be filed with India’s IT ministry.
Industry executives and local activist claim that the proposed law is another form of censorship and might be used by the current Indian government to suppress dissent, especially when the general election are just a few months away.
Mozilla criticized the proposed law last week as “blunt and disproportionate” solution to the problems of objectionable content online.
Whatsapp has already started making efforts to prevent the prevalence of misinformation in India after the fake news shared on Whatsapp turned into real-world violence last year. The Facebook-owned messenger app launched three 1-minute ad films for TV, Facebook, and Youtube to spread awareness about the circulation of fake news and rumors.
At the behest of the Indian government, Whatsapp labeled forwarded messages and limited the ability to forward texts to multiple chats at once.
Whatsapp also hired grievance officer whom users could contact directly with a promise to set up local presence. The company, however, refused to agree to the government’s demand urging it to track messages as it goes against Whatsapp’s end-to-end encryption policy.
Similar rules have been applied to different nations of the world as well. Vietnam requires tech companies to store user data locally and remove offensive material from the platforms within 24 hours. Germany also established that hate speech is to be taken down within the same time frame, while Australia recently passed its anti-encryption bill into law despite protests from Apple.