May 13, 2021


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India tightens regulations on social media companies | Censorship News

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Facebook, Twitter and others will be required to remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order, under the new rules.

India has announced new rules to regulate content on social media, making Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and others more responsible for legal demands to quickly remove posts and share information about the origin of posts.

The rules – as part of an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to put Big Tech on a shorter leash – come after Twitter recently ignored government orders to ditch content related to farmers’ protests.

India has the largest user market for Facebook and its WhatsApp messaging service.

The new rules called the Guidelines for Intermediaries and the Code of Ethics for Digital Media, released by the government on Thursday, will be legally enforceable.

The rules will require large social media companies to put in place a grievance mechanism and appoint new executives within three months to coordinate with law enforcement.

Social media companies should be “more responsible and more accountable,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister of information technology, told reporters when describing the rules.

Large social media companies will be required to remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order, according to the rules.

The government has also said companies are required to provide assistance in surveys or other cybersecurity-related incidents within 72 hours of receiving a request.

They must also deactivate within one day any post portraying an individual in sexual act or conduct, according to the rules, a draft copy of which was reported on Wednesday by the Reuters news agency.

IT Minister Prasad also told reporters that the rules would require companies to reveal the author of a message or post when legally ordered.

Facebook has said it welcomes the rules that prescribe ways to address challenges on the web. “Details of rules like these matter and we will study the new rules carefully,” he said in a statement. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, declined to comment.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company will study the guidelines and look forward to continued engagement with the Indian government.

“We believe that regulation is beneficial when it protects the fundamental rights of citizens and strengthens online freedoms,” he said in a statement.

‘Risks of political control, censorship’

Technology companies are under more scrutiny around the world. Facebook faced backlash last week from some publishers and politicians after blocking news feeds in Australia in a dispute with the government over revenue sharing.

This prompted Australia to make last-minute changes to a law passed Thursday to ensure that Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook pay media companies for content, a step that countries like Britain and the Canada want to follow.

India’s rules will also require video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to classify content into five categories based on the age of users, the government said.

Online news media will also be regulated under the new rules, with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting creating a monitoring system, the government added.

Apar Gupta, executive director of the Advacy Internet Freedom Foundation, said the new rules for digital news media portals and video streaming platforms pose risks to freedom of expression.

“To solve the problems in these sectors, the government has taken an approach that carries risks of political control and censorship,” he said.

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