Users’ Privacy or Unlawful Content?
The Government of India is proactively working to come up with revised drafts and guidelines for social media platforms, such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to take strict action against fake news and rumours which are increasing and being a matter of concern for government, public, and national security.
Currently, according to Section 79 of the Information Technology Act that gives safe passage to intermediaries for any unlawful instances, such as fake news, contents, infographics, etc. that has been created or hosted by any user and shared through their platform. The section safeguarding such instances states that –
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force but subject to the provisions of sub-sections (2) and (3), an intermediary shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him and
Section 79(3)(b) which states that upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate
Government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource, controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner.
A closed room meeting which was held for an hour in the presence of the MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) along with officials from the division of Cyber Law and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Whatsapp, Twitter, The Internet Service Providers Association of India and many more. The agenda of the meet was to introduce a technology which can help to trace and track any kind of posts, news, etc. shared through their platform.
The new draft which is created for the amendment in Intermediaries Guidelines Rules will be the new IT Act 2018.
Rule 3(9) will state that the online platforms or intermediaries need to implement technology, like an automatic tool, mechanism or algorithm to control, i.e. identify and disable or remove any unlawful content or information.
A new rule which will be added as Rule 3(4) stating that the online platform will have to alert and warn the user for creating or hosting such types of content or information.
The shocking about Rule 3(5) is that the online platform will have or are forced to check, trace, monitor and track the content of all their users which will result in the destruction of end-to-end encryption and risk for the users’ privacy.
Being concerned about the increasing numbers of fake news shared over Whatsapp. Out of 600 proposals received, Whatsapp has selected 20 teams to research and fight against the fake news which is been created or hosted globally, including India. The total commitment for this initiative is $1 million, i.e. $50,000 per team. A spokesperson from Whatsapp shared that they deeply care for their users’ safety and encourage the freedom of speech or communication. There are no intentions to harm or spread harmful or unlawful information and create fake humour within or among societies, thus, they feel that this is the biggest challenge which needs to be addressed.
The co-founder and lawyer of The Internet Freedom Foundation feel that amending of such rules will destroy the users’ fundamental rights. Also, the rules which had been drafted are shared with them for in-depth analysis.
In 2018, there were reports of lynching incidents which were raised because of fake rumours and/or news circulated via Whatsapp and on other social media platforms as said by the ministry.
The officials added that the new rules are ready and under investigation by legal consultants. Once acknowledged, it will be routed via the ministry of legal affairs for their suggestions and opinions before the final signature of Ravi Shankar Prasad, the ministry for electronics and IT.
Kindly stay connected to know any progress or update for the same.