India To Frame Rules To Regulate Social Media In Three Months
Social media applications are displayed along with other apps on an Apple Inc. iPhone in this arranged photograph taken in Hong Kong, China (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)  

India To Frame Rules To Regulate Social Media In Three Months

India plans to frame rules to regulate social media citing “unimaginable disruption” to democracy and fake news, a move that could trigger privacy concerns.

“Internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity, it was felt that the extant rules to be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries keeping in view the ever growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security,” the central government said in a response in the Supreme Court. India is likely to finalise the liability of intermediaries—including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp—for online content by Jan. 15.

The response came on the case seeking to trace the origin of messages on WhatsApp, which has seen an explosion of rumours and fake new that has been linked to lynching incidents. And the government’s planned rules come amid a growing list of nations seek to regulate social media content to fight online crimes and fake news.

Messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted globally and even the company doesn’t have access to the messages being exchanged on the platform, it argued through its counsel Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi.

Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had recently said the government has informed WhatsApp that it will have to share details of the originator of messages which is considered capable of disturbing law and order.

“We respect encryption but where same message is being relayed repeatedly at same time, same area and on same issue to create mayhem and spread false rumours, law enforcement agencies must have access ...source of nuisance must be identified to deal with circulation of false rumours in such cases,” the minister had said at the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi recently.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta too had expressed concerns on the potential misuse of the internet in spread of rumours, fake news and other issues concerning around it.

The top court had asked the government to clarify what steps it aims to take to tackle such a nuisance.

Currently, liabilities of the intermediaries on online content is governed by the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules operational from April 2011. The government now says that they recognise that rules need to be revisited and has initiated a consultation process on framing the revised guidelines.

The Supreme Court will hear the matter of traceability of WhatsApp messages on Tuesday.

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