The Indian government has proposed a new ruling in order to stop misinformation and fake news from spreading all over the country by social media platforms. But most of the local civil liberty groups disapprove this decision. Their main concern is that this new rules will limit freedom of online free speech. Even The Internet Freedom Foundation released a statement stating that these new rules would act as a “sledgehammer to online free speech”.
This new proposed rule would amend section 79 of India’s IT Act. This is the current primary law in India concerning all the online commerce and cybercrimes. This Current IT Act works in similar way to US’s Communication Decency Act. and the specific context that proposed to amend is similar to section 230. If somehow the proposed amendments get approved, all the social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter would be required to censor all the contents Indian government identifies as inappropriate. Which potentially going to affect how the contents served outside of country. Even further these amendments would require some companies to provide sensitive user information such as private messages to government, if government requested those information. This will cause serious legal issues regarding end-to-end encryption services like WhatsApp.
All the social media platforms would also need to remind their users of their privacy policies monthly.
If the new proposed amendments get approved, all the social media platforms would require to introduce new technology tools in order to automatically flag contents that Indian government identifies as inappropriate. Wired stated that this would include “hate speech against certain protected groups, defamation, child abuse and depictions of rape”.
Child abuse and depictions of rape identifies as common sense rules, But BuzzFeed News stated that these new amendments could restrict free speech rights and could help to enable mass government surveillance.
According to Bloomberg, the addition of a decryption clause, which included in new amendments could be easily used to monitor citizen’s private communications. Which mean this traceability clause would require to end-to end encryption services to store their user’s information for at least 180 days in case of investigation presented.
Even though CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg said that his team is developing better artificial intelligence system, in order to flag inappropriate contents that violates Facebook’s rules and remove them before even content get posted, still many contents that violate Facebook rules get posted on Facebook every day. Last month Tumblr introduced new AI tool to remove all the pornographic contents from the platforms. But it has failed to completely flag some of inappropriate contents from the platform. And also some of Non-erotic artworks have been flagged as pornography images.