List of Contents
- Issues related to social media in India
- New IT Rules for Social Media and OTT platforms – Explained Pointwise
- New Social Media Code – A much-needed one for India
- New social media rules – an analysis
- Govt announces new social media rules to curb its misuse
- Delhi Court’s ruling on Disha Ravi Toolkit case
- A tussle between Australia and Facebook over News Charges
- Need to regulate Big techs in India
- Government’s Notice to Twitter: Why Twitter’s actions are justified?
- Climate activist arrested in ‘Toolkit Conspiracy’
- Toolkit conspiracy case and its imapct on India- Explained Pointwise
- Need of reforming the blocking powers of Government
- Self-regulatory codes 2020 for OTTs should be allowed
- What are the issues in government’s order to Twitter?
- Disinformation issue in Cyber Space: Issues and Way forward
- Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020
- Privacy Issues in government backed Apps
- Centre’s Powers under “Section 69A of IT Act”
- Issues of restricting free speech in name of fake news
- Regulating tech giants in India- Explained
- Internet shutdowns in India: impacts and way forward
- Twitter might face penal action under IT Act
- Ways to control Monopolistic tendencies of Internet Giants
- Stopping hate on TV is essential to prevent riots: SC
- Privacy and surveillance
- Issue of Big Tech’s increasing power
- Need for social media Policies on hate and incitement
- India’s digital strike
- Social and Digital media regulations in India | 24th November
- Issue of Digital/Social media regulations in India
- Regulations of Digital media
- A digital sisterhood
- importance of freedom of press in india
- Social Media and hate speech
- Social Media & hate speech
Issues related to social media in India
New IT Rules for Social Media and OTT platforms – Explained Pointwise
The Government of India has released the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It aims to regulate social media, digital news media, and Over-The-Top (OTT) content providers. The rules were jointly announced by the Minister for Information Technology and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Despite being praised by few experts as revolutionary, it also has certain challenges to be addressed.
Need for the New IT Rules 2021:
India at present doesn’t have any specific rules to govern the digital news media and OTT platforms. At present these are governed under Section 79 of the IT Act. But it was not able to effectively control the misuse of data over social media and digital platforms. The reasons were,
- Non-liability of Intermediary:
- Section 69 of the IT Act gives power to the government to issue directions “to intercept, decrypt or monitor…any information generated, transmitted, received or stored” in any digital equipment.
- The Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information. Further, they have to obey the directions issued by the government from time to time.
- By adhering to government rules, they will get protected from legal action for any user-generated content under Section 79. Section 79 states that an intermediary (Digital media and OTTs) shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication
- Further, the user base of big companies has expanded rapidly. Currently there are over 53 crore WhatsApp users, over 44.8 Crore YouTube users and 41 Crore Facebook users.
- The government rejected the Self-regulatory toolkit submitted by 17 OTT Platforms. The government rejected them for reasons like lack of independent third-party monitoring, the tool-kit did not have a well-defined Code of Ethics, etc.
This induced the government to come up with new rules under the IT Act, 2000. The IT Rules 2011 got replaced with the new IT Rules 2021.
Salient provisions of IT Rules 2021
The new IT rules have been framed to address the Social Media, Digital Media and OTT platforms in a specific manner.
New IT Rules related to Social Media:
- Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. These information are “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
- If such information is hosted or published the government can take down such information within 24 hours. The user will be given a notice before his/her content is taken down.
- The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
- The IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
- Social media platforms are classified into two categories
- Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
- Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
- The significant social media intermediaries have to follow few additional measures like:
- These platforms should have a physical contact address in India.
- Appointing a Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
- Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- The Resident Grievance Officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
New IT Rules related to Digital media and OTT platforms:
- A Code of Ethics has been prescribed for OTT platforms and digital media entities.
- The streaming platforms (Like Netflix and Amazon Prime) will have to self-classify content on five age-based categories: U (universal), 7+, 13+, 16+, and A (adult).
- They need to have suitable parental locks for 13+ content and a robust age verification system for accessing adult content.
- Publishers of news on digital media will have to observe the norms of journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.
- A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has also been established:
- Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers
- Level-II: Self-regulating body: This body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court or independent eminent person.
- Level-III: Oversight mechanism: I&B Ministry will formulate an oversight mechanism and establish an inter-departmental committee for hearing grievances. This body will also have censorship and blocking powers.
Advantages of the new IT Rules 2021
- It will ensure that social media platforms have to keep better checks and balances over their platforms. This will ensure the data is not shared unlawfully. This will ensure adherence to the rule of law.
- The new IT rules enhance government regulation over social and digital media. This will enhance accountability and prevent arbitrary actions by digital platforms like the recent one by Twitter.
- The new IT rules will lead to the empowerment of citizens. Since there is a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievances.
- Disinformation (Fake and wrong information) of data can be controlled. Since there is proper regulatory mechanism, disinformation can be removed easily. This will reduce instances of fake news, violence, the spread of defamatory content and disruption of public order.
- Giving due notice before removing content will prevent arbitrary removal of content.
- The imposition of print and electronic code of conduct on digital news media would ensure a level playing field for every media.
- It will strengthen India’s position as a leader in digital policy and technological innovation. For example, China, with its larger digital population, has not been able to provide a fair and open local market for global companies in the digital space due to absence of proper IT Rules and Regulation.
Criticisms of the new IT Rules 2021
- The New IT rules were not put for public consultation. Especially those related to regulations of online news portals and video streaming platforms. For example, IAMAI(Internet and Mobile Association of India) was not consulted on the proposed OTT guidelines.
- The rules allow the government to enforce a traceability mechanism. This simply means a threat to the user’s privacy. It will hamper the end-to-end encryption of platforms like WhatsApp.
- As the new rules curtail free speech on digital platforms, there will be a sense of fear among the users.
- The IT Act doesn’t cover content authors and creators like news media. But rules have included them. This provides discretionary powers to the government.
- The proposed oversight mechanism doesn’t have any legislative backing which is generally given to other regulators.
- For example, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act provides powers to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Under the rules, the regulation will be done by a body composed of bureaucrats who might perform discretionary censorship thereby enhancing political control.
Suggestions for smooth implementation of new IT rules
- The government should consult with appropriate stakeholders. This will improve the inclusivity and acceptability of the new IT rules.
- The focus should be on strengthening citizen’s rights by learning from successful global examples like OFCOM (OFCOM is a communication regulator in the UK).
- The government must have a mindset of flexibility and agility to support the rules adequately.
- OTT platforms while regulating the content have to strike a balance. Especially between the diverse Indian society and the beliefs of viewers in India.
The enactment of new IT rules 2021 is a watershed moment that will transform the digital information ecology in India. A fine balance between freedom of speech and the need to curb the misuse in digital platforms have to be maintained. Both the government and the digital platforms will have to work together and fulfill this responsibility.
New Social Media Code – A much-needed one for India
Synopsis: The new Social media code is much-needed to ensure the online platforms are subject to law of the land
Recently, the government introduced the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The rules have the potential to transform the online media platforms to fit into the Indian ecosystem.
- The OTT platforms together have to enact a code for self-regulation. Further, the OTT platforms also have to classify the content. Therefore, an underage minor not able to view the adult contents.
- The new social media code creates a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
- First-tier: The publishers of social media have to appoint officers to redress their grievances. These officers have to ensure the time-bound disposal of grievances.
- A self-regulating body headed by a retired judge will be at the Second-tier.
- The central government oversight committee will be in the third tier.
- All the grievances have to be resolved within the framework of India’s laws. Recently, Twitter disobeyed government rules. After the implementation of New social media codes, social media have to obey the government directions.
What India need New Social Media Code?
- The policy will create a level playing field in two important things.
- Between the online news platforms and print media
- Between the online news platforms and television news media.
- The new social media rules will bring in the online news portals within the ambit of the code of ethics. It is a much-needed step considering the recklessness and irresponsibility shown by some of the digital media platforms.
- Further, the new social media rules aim to achieve oversight responsibilities. Like the film certification agency for Cinema, the social media platforms have to ensure a content classification.
- The new social media codes will ensure freedom of speech to the artists. This is achieved through self-regulation. Social media platforms can provide more freedom for artists to create content. Since they are the ones going to regulate it, they can classify the content of artist instead of banning them like other media (film, print etc).
What are the global lessons for digital media platforms in self-regulation?
- Lessons from Australia: In Australia, Digital companies have drafted a code to deal with fake news and disinformation. This is called the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation. The code has few important provisions including the removal of content and disabling the content from the digital platforms.
- Lessons from the UK: The UK government is proposed an “Online Safety Bill”. The Bill aims to deal heavily on digital platforms that promote violence, child abuse, terrorist material, cyber bullying, etc.
The New social media code has the necessary provisions to ensure free speech. At the same time, It will regulate social media companies from violating the law of the land.
New social media rules – an analysis
Synopsis: The government announced The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The experts have welcomed the step but there are some cautious provisions in the new social media rules.
Background of the new social media rules:
- The rise of social media resulted in enormous controlling power in the hands of big technology companies. The government took this step to regulate the misuse of power by them.
- A core framework to determine intermediary liability was ensured by Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act. This was supplemented by operational rules and SC’s judgment in the Shreya Singhal V. Union of India case.
- However, the intermediaries were kept immune for the content that is transmitted and stored by them. In return, they had to comply with a set of conditions that were set by the government.
- It is this set of conditions that got translated into Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The rules were jointly announced by the Minister for Information Technology and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.
About the new social media rules:
- They contain fresh obligations for social media companies and platforms.
- The user should be given a notice before its content is taken down. This improves the accountability of social media platforms.
- The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
- An oversight mechanism is being created for digital news media portals as well as for online video streaming platforms. It will perform a similar role like what the Ministry of Information and broadcasting does for T.V regulation.
- The body conducting oversight will also be empowered with censorship and blocking powers as per Rule 13(4).
Read more – Social Media and OTT rules
Criticisms of new social media rules:
- Various aspects of rules were not put for public consultation especially those related to regulations of online news portals and video streaming platforms.
- The rules allow the government to enforce a traceability mechanism. This simply means a threat to the user’s privacy. It will hamper the end-to-end encryption of platforms like WhatsApp.
- As the new rules curtail free speech on these platforms, there will be a sense of fear among the users
- The IT Act doesn’t cover content authors and creators like news media, but rules have included them. This provides discretionary powers to the government.
- The proposed oversight mechanism doesn’t have any legislative backing which is generally given to other regulators. For example, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act provided powers to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Under the rules, the regulation will be done by a body composed of bureaucrats. They might perform discretionary censorship.
The proposed rules seem to enhance political control and enhance fear in the minds of users. They should have been formulated in a more deliberative way involving parliamentary processes. To protect citizen rights, India can frame a regulator like OFCOM in the UK. Anyway, the enactment of new social media rules is still a watershed moment that will transform the digital information ecology in India.
Govt announces new social media rules to curb its misuse
What is the news?
The Government of India has released the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It aims to regulate social media, digital news media and over-the-top (OTT) content providers.
Key Provisions of the Rules:
Social media companies and redressal: The government wants social media companies to have a mechanism to address complaints from users. It wants social media intermediaries to appoint the following officers:
- Chief Compliance Officer, who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
- Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- Resident Grievance Officer: He will receive and resolve complaints from users. The officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
All these officers have to be residents of India.
Categories of Content that should not be posted: The rules lay down categories of content that the social media platform should not host. It includes content that
- Threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order
- Causes incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or
- Prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any foreign States
- Content is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy,
- Related to encouraging money laundering or gambling or is inconsistent with or contrary to the laws of India.
Removal of these contents: The rules stipulate that the platforms should remove the content within 36 hours. Duration will count from the receipt of information from a court or the appropriate government agency about the platform hosting prohibited content.
Monthly Compliance Report:
- The platforms will need to publish a monthly compliance report. It should have the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints.
Track Originator of Message:
- The social media platforms need to disclose the first originator of the objectionable tweet or message if asked either by a court or a government authority.
- This will be required in matters related to the security and sovereignty of India, public order, or with regard to rape or any other sexually explicit material.
Self-Classification of Content:
- The Over the Top(OTT) platforms would classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
- Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher. A reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A” should be placed.
Publishing News on Digital Media:
- Publishers of news on digital media will be required to observe norms of journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.
Penalties for Non-Compliance of Rules:
- In case an intermediary fails to observe the rules, it will be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code.
- The penal provisions vary from imprisonment for three years to a maximum of seven years, with fines starting from Rs 2 lakh.
Source: Indian Express
Delhi Court’s ruling on Disha Ravi Toolkit case
Synopsis – Delhi court grants bail to Disha Ravi in its ruling in the tool kit case. It termed evidence produced by Delhi police as inappropriate.
- Delhi Court granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested in the Greta Thunberg ‘toolkit’ case.
- Delhi Police arrested her on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy in the Greta toolkit case.
Key takeaways from Court’s ruling-
- The Delhi court dismissed the claims as Delhi police failed to show any evidence
- On criminal conspiracy, the Court noted that mere assumption is not sufficient. It should be backed by evidence.
- The judge stated that only interaction with people of doubtful credentials is not an offence.
- On sedition, the court cited Kedar Nath case (1962) that actual violence or incitement to violence should be associated with words.
- Moreover, the Court negated the state’s “global conspiracy” claims and stated that the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression “includes the right to seek a global audience”. Also, “there are no geographical barriers on communication” as long as it’s “under the four corners of the law.”
What is the Toolkit case?
Toolkit- A document created to explain any issue which provides information on what one needs to do to address the issue.
- The toolkit includes information about petitions, details about protests, and mass movements.
- Also provide a roadmap of how to take forward the protest and what can be done, when and how.
Disha Ravi Toolkit case-
- Delhi police reported that Ravi was the editor of a Google doc (called a toolkit) related to farmer’s protest.
- Police alleged that she started a WhatsApp Group to make the Toolkit doc in collaboration with a pro-Khalistani organization to spread disaffection against the Indian state.
- She was charged with Section 120B [Criminal conspiracy], along with Sections 124A (sedition) and Section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of IPC.
A tussle between Australia and Facebook over News Charges
Synopsis: Recently, a clash erupted between the Australian government and Facebook. The big Techs in Australia are opposing the Fee to media companies for using their content.
- Recently, the Australian government has proposed the ‘News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020’.
- The bill aims to make Google and Facebook pay to media companies for using their content.
- It also proposes for an arbiter to decide the payments. It is important because small publishers have no bargaining power against Big tech companies.
- Facebook has retaliated with a news blackout. It blocked all the news links on its platform. In this process, it also ended up blocking out emergency services such as weather forecast, rescue operation, news related to health, etc.
- In response to this bullying action by Facebook, Australia’s Prime Minister has sought global diplomatic support for forcing Internet giants to pay media companies.
- In this context, he also contacted Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the progress of media platform bill.
- The legislation sets a precedent in regulating social media across countries.
Why the government resorted to draft a bill for this purpose?
- In 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended a voluntary code for internet companies. It was to balance the negotiating power differential between major digital platforms and media businesses.
- However, the businesses were not able to reach an agreement voluntarily. This prompted the government to legislate a mandatory code.
Why internet companies are reluctant to accept this bill?
The basic argument of both companies is that,
- The media industry is already being benefitted from the traffic routed to them by the digital platforms.
- Also, they are of the opinion that the proposed rules would expose the Internet companies to unseen levels of financial and operational risk.
How it is regulated in other countries?
- Both the platforms Facebook and Google aim to formalize payment pacts with news companies in several other countries.
- For example, Facebook plans to launch its news tab feature in the US and in the UK, with likely tie-ups with The Guardian, The Economist, and The Independent.
- Whereas Google has planned to roll out its news offering platform, Google News Showcase. It 450 publications on board in a dozen countries.
- Similarly, Google has accepted to pay news publications in France for using their content online.
- Even in Australia, Google has opted for a more conciliatory position by signing a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Whereas, Facebook has resorted to retaliation.
Why internet companies are having double standards with respect to different countries?
- Paying for a news feed is not an issue for the tech giants. They have already accepted to pay News publications in France.
- But the fight in Australia is over, how much control these companies would be able to retain on their pay-out process and on operational aspects. For example, the power to decide the payments for news feed sources, revealing changes in their algorithms, etc.,
- European laws have specifically linked payments to copyright, without any pressuring features into the agreements. Whereas Australia’s code is entirely focused on the bargaining power of news outlets and has some coercive features.
What is the status in India?
- According to a FICCI-EY report for 2020, there are 300 million users of online news sites, portals, and aggregators in the country. It comprises around 46% of Internet users and 77% of smartphone users in India at the end of 2019.
- Also, India is the second-largest online news consuming nation after China. This has increased the revenue for aggregators, news publishers through digital advertising.
- For example, according to EY estimates, digital advertising spends in 2019 grew 24% and is expected to grow to Rs 51,340 crore by 2022.
- Despite huge prospects, a substantial discussion on this issue is yet to begin in India.
- In India, Daily hunt and In Shorts are the other major news aggregators. They are yet to find a sustainable revenue model to make payments to publishers.
Need to regulate Big techs in India
Synopsis: The Indian government is planning to announce important regulations on big techs Internet-related technology companies.
At present the world has two visions of the internet technology:
- Libertarianism: Under this, liberal internet policies were followed by countries such as the USA. This model was successful in the past but now under pressure due to internal conflicts.
- Authoritarianism: Under this, Countries will enforce strict authoritative Internet policies. For example, China. This model is now getting strong support.
Both of these creating a dilemma for other countries in regulating the big techs.
What is the need for regulating the big-techs?
There are several issues with internet platforms. These issues get intensified after big-techs starts creating and generating their own contents. The issues are
- Big tech companies acquire monopoly power in their operations. This leaves no scope for free and fair competition.
- The algorithms used by the big-techs were opaque and not subject to accountability.
- These big tech companies became the symbol of inequality. They acquired more economic and political power.
- These companies viewed themselves as a sovereign power and regulated speech on their own. For example, a private CEO banning the elected president trump from social media.
- There might be a harmful impact of big tech on democracy and democratisation. Democracies became more polarised and free speech abuses increased.
What does India intend to achieve by regulating the big-techs?
The regulations against big tech are an attempt to curb the unfair advantages of big techs use to exploit the Indian market. India can create competition and be more self-reliant in the internet space.
- Ideological push to Atmanirbhar Bharat: China kept out big tech companies from exploiting their market. At the same time, China did not face any difference in financial flows or investment in other areas. This is because China developed more indigenous technology. India can also create Atmanirbhar Bharat by regulating.
- Many critics have urged the government to potentially control the information as much as possible. By regulating Big techs India can control the data generated by Indians more easily.
- The government should show a moral commitment and invest in science and technology.
- India can address complicated issues by following these steps.
- Enhancing India’s technological capabilities.
- Creating an institutional structure to prevent big techs from diminishing democracy and freedom of speech.
Government’s Notice to Twitter: Why Twitter’s actions are justified?
Synopsis: Twitter has acted with reason after defying the Indian government’s legal orders. It didn’t implement the order fully and this action is desirable despite the criticism.
Twitter did not act in accordance with the Indian government’s orders under Section 69A of the IT Act. It was required to block hundreds of accounts under the order.
However, Twitter has said that the list had accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians. Twitter believes that blocking these accounts would not be fair to Indian law and the platform’s contract objectives.
- This defiance has not gone down well with the government. Independent verifications revealed that many accounts did not post messages suggesting a genocide plan but supported farmers’ protest.
What were the criticisms against Twitter?
Twitter witnessed criticism on multiple grounds such as:
- Firstly, Twitter’s refusal shows a lack of respect for Indian law because it is bound by legal orders of the government under the Act.
- Secondly, Twitter is a private company, and it cannot decide what is proportionate or lawful. Twitter can challenge the order in a court, but cannot choose to comply partially.
- Thirdly, Twitter’s decision indicates that it is denying parity to India with the U.S. The platform blocked Donald Trump’s account but refusing to block users in India.
- Fourthly, its defiance indicates the increasing power and liberty of Big Tech. It requires a clear and plain zero-tolerance response.
Why Twitter’s actions are justified?
- The tension between government and social media platforms is healthy and constructive. It keeps a balance, which was not possible if both were on the same side.
- Following government orders blindly will seriously impact twitter’s audience’s fundamental rights. Twitter has also a responsibility to ensure people’s right to free and informed speech.
- Big Techs has often sided with the government hurting its users’ rights. For instance, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook India failed to act on provocative posts of a member of the ruling party. It is good that Big techs are thinking about users.
- Twitter didn’t ban Trump’s account all of a sudden despite the repeated promotion of lies. His account was spreading misinformation during the Capitol Hill riot. Before suspending his account, Twitter tried to flag his content and limit its reach. A permanent ban was the last step. Demanding a direct ban is against this process of twitter.
- The current incident is among the rare instances that Twitter has given equivalence to its Indian audience with that of its U.S.’s. Twitter chose to take an independent view of the matter and not blindly complied with the wishes of the government.
- The attempt to extend similar safeguards to Indian users as the US users enjoy is a welcome step. That would also be consistent with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UNHRC.
Climate activist arrested in ‘Toolkit Conspiracy’
Synopsis: A 22-year-old climate activist got arrested for misusing a toolkit. Such instances raise a question of alleged misuse of power by the government officials.
- The Delhi Police has already registered multiple First Information Reports (FIRs) post the 26th January farmer protest in Delhi.
- They have now arrested Disha Ravi, a climate activist from Bengaluru for editing a toolkit published on 3rd February by climate activist Greta Thunberg. It was used by social media users to protest against the farm laws.
What is a tool kit?
- It is simply a document containing a set of directives for social media campaigners.
- It includes the hashtags to be used, persons to be targeted, duration of campaign and other things for a systematic and synchronized online campaign.
Reason for Arrest:
- The allegation is that the toolkit was made by Pro – Khalistani separatists. Thus, editing it amounted to sedition and incitement to riots.
- The government believes that activist is part of a Global conspiracy to incite violence in the country by secessionists based in Punjab.
Issues with Arrest:
- First, the Delhi Police didn’t’ seek permission from the state Police. By that, it disobeyed interstate arrest guidelines formulated by the Delhi High Court. Further the accused was not allowed to be properly represented by a counsel.
- Second, the toolkit doesn’t contain any directions which led to direct incitement of violence. It was a necessary condition for sedition.
- Third, it undermines democratic power when people are arrested due to excessive suspicion and not on merits. Thereby undermining due process.
- Fourth, such arrest shows non judicious use of police power which will diminish India’s Global image.
- The focus should be on addressing the tolerance gap in governance and not on using more repressive strategies.
- The masses shouldn’t feel that their rights are not respected by the government and free speech should not be curbed by illegitimate means.
- In the case of Ravi, an impartial investigation to establish her crime should be done.
Toolkit conspiracy case and its imapct on India- Explained Pointwise
Table of contents:
- What is Tool Kit?
- What is the Greta Thunberg toolkit case?
- Previous such example pointed out by activists
- What are the existing provisions for such arrest?
- Why government actions on activists are justified?
- Judicial interventions on such cases in the past
- Challenges faced by the government in arresting activists
Recently Climate activist in India was arrested in the Greta Thunberg toolkit case. Delhi police filed an FIR and issued a non-bailable warrant against two other persons related to the case. Many activists are of the opinion that the arrests are allegedly politically motivated and the government is silencing its critics. But it is just one side of the argument.
What is Tool Kit?
- A toolkit is a set of essential guidelines or suggestions to get something done. The contents of the tool kit differ depending upon the activity. For example, the recent self-regulation tool kit by OTT platforms for self-regulation.
- The tool kit is also released by governments. For example, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has a toolkit for better implementation of IPR (Intellectual Property Right) in India.
- A tool kit is also used during protests. It contains pieces of information to help the protesters to promote their campaign and to become popular as much as possible.
- It was used more actively in Wall Street protests of 2011, Hong Kong protests of 2019, and anti-CAA protests across India.
- During the anti-CAA protests, a toolkit suggested places to hold protests, Twitter hashtags to use, and other similar guides were shared on social media.
What is the Greta Thunberg toolkit case?
Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist. She shared a toolkit on Twitter during the anti-farm law protests. The tool kit suggested few activities like creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies, etc. Due to severe criticism, the activist deleted the tweet within a few minutes. However, it already got circulated on social media.
The Cyber Cell of Delhi Police filed an FIR against unknown people for creating and spreading the toolkit. The Police also claimed the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) as a key conspirator. (Poetic Justice Foundation is responsible for pro-Khalistani activities). The police also accused the PJF of waging a “social, economical and cultural war against India”.
The Delhi Police claimed a Climate Activist in India as the editor of “toolkit Google doc” and a “key conspirator” in the toolkit formulation and distribution. The Delhi Police arrested the activist and issued a non-bailable warrant against two other persons.
Previous such example:
The activists are claiming these arrests as politically motivated and an example of the government silencing its critics. These were,
- Sitaram Yechury, a well-known politician
- Yogendra Yadav, an activist and academic
- Jayati Ghosh, an economist
- Rahul Roy, a documentary filmmaker
- Apoorvanand, a Delhi University professor.
What are the existing provisions for such arrest?
- The Government enacted the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 for matters related to cybercrime and e-commerce. Based on the Act, the Government can punish for any crime committed through a computer or a network. The Act can charge foreigners also.
- The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The Act aims to prevent the activities and associations involved in unlawful activities effectively. In 2019 the act was amended to include the provisions of designating an individual as a terrorist. The Law prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment as maximum punishment.
- Sedition cases under IPC section 124A (Indian Penal Code). Sedition is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring contempt or hatred towards the government of India. This section provides a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.
- Criminal defamation under section 499 of the IPC. This section defines defamation as a communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, product, group, business, government, religion, or nation.
- Several states have also enacted a few specific laws to govern the criticisms. For example, the Draft Bill of Maharashtra’s Shakti Act has a stringent provision for offenders who post defamatory messages on social media.
- Not all the critics got arrested under these laws. These laws have utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist individuals and organizations. Few highly publicized cases cannot be the example of politically motivated arrests.
- The laws were enacted to prevent the individual/organisation from indulging in contempt of government. This is essential for the smooth functioning of democracy.
- There are instances where activists are involved in destabilizing the democratically elected government. These laws act as a strong defence against such activities aimed to overthrow the government.
- Prevent the sovereignty of India: India is surrounded by countries like Pakistan, China. So India needs to prevent foreign influences in Indian policymaking. These laws aid the government in preventing undue foreign influences.
Judicial interventions on such cases in the past:
The Supreme Court in various instances regulated and restricted the politically motivated arrests but at the same time, the Court also punished the wrongdoers.
- In G. Narasimhan & Others vs T. V. Chokkappa (1972) case: the Supreme Court held that a person could be defamed only if there is a definite, identifiable and established evidence.
- In Fatma Bibi Ahmed Patel vs State of Gujarat (2008) case: the Supreme Court held that the registration of a case against a foreigner for an offence committed outside India was illegal. The court further held that the government had no jurisdiction for such offences.
- In K. T. M. S. Abdul Cader v. Union of India (1977) case: The Madras High Court accepted the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Indian Parliament. However, the court also held that such law would be ineffective so long as the foreigner remains outside India.
So in conclusion, a foreigner can be dealt with the Indian law only if he is present within the territory. Under this only, Ajmal Kasab was tried in India for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Challenges faced by the government in arresting activists:
- The government’s stringent action on criticisms attracts a confluence of such activists leading to various troubles. Like severe criticism of government policies and initiatives, false propaganda, etc.
- The stringent action of government is also bringing down India’s image in the international arena. Many times arresting a famous activist coincides with foreign government criticising Indian acts. For example, many countries explicitly issued statements against the arrest of CAA protesters and criticised India without consulting and analysing the Act.
- The stringent action on activists is also seen as a violation of the Fundamental Right. Like the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
- Global Human Rights Watch also mentions arrests on activists as a violation of Human Rights.
- It is also seen as a burden to Indian Judiciary and reducing the accountability of the police for their abuses.
- It can also create an image among supporters like they are free to commit abuses against communities who are in minority.
- The government has to strike the midline between constructive criticism and criticisms destabilising India. So, to achieve that the government has to set up a committee to examine and supervise the process. Like
- Designating individuals and organisations as a threat.
- Investigation of cases in Fair and Just manner etc.
- The government has to train Law enforcement authorities to prevent the problem of misuse.
- The government can also try implementing the following steps. Such as
- Barring the state governments, local bodies and other institutions (statutory functions) from filing numerous suits.
- Providing lesser punishments such as corrections, apologies, and retractions, for lesser form of crimes.
India is the largest democracy in the world. Right to dissent is considered as the lifeblood of any democracy. So, the government should restrict the politically motivated arrest. But at the same time checking the divisive forces is also essential for the government.
Need of reforming the blocking powers of Government
Synopsis: The government’s use of is blocking powers under Section 69A of Information and Technology Act 2000 (I.T Act) attracted criticism. There is a need to reforms the blocking powers to ensure free speech in Indian democracy.
- Twitter suspended some user accounts based on Emergency restriction orders issued by Government under Section 69A. Govt. issued this order in wake of violence in farmer’s protest on 26th January in Delhi.
- The apparent reason behind such an order was the use of a controversial hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide. It could have disturbed the public order.
- However, later on, Twitter reactivated some of the accounts that didn’t violate Indian law. It attracted a sharp reaction from the Indian Government. A non-compliance order against Twitter and its employees was issued for violating Section 69A.
- At present, a temporary peace has been established, after a meeting between Twitter officials and the government.
Government’s power to block online users:
- Section 69A of I.T Act 2000:
- It empowers the government to order an intermediary for blocking access to any information in the digital world.
- The grounds for exercising the power are; threat to national security, public order, sovereignty and integrity of the country etc.
- A punishment up to 7 years can be imposed on intermediaries who don’t comply with the government’s blocking orders.
- Blocking Rules 2009:
- It tells the procedure which needs to be followed for blocking online content. As per these rules, the orders are subject to review by government committees. Further all orders and complaints should remain strictly confidential.
- Issues with Blocking Power:
- First, the government can issue restricting orders without any evidence. It undermines the Fundamental Right to free speech.
- Second, the confidentiality of orders makes it very difficult for users to challenge it in open courts. There is no requirement of giving any reason or hearing opportunity is a clear violation of due process.
- Third, These rules make censorship an easy and costless option. It places the burden of going to court and gathering the evidence on the user.
- Fourth, The framing of section 69A is in such a way that protection of online free speech mainly depends on the courage shown by intermediaries against government’s blocking orders.
- Reforms should take place in compliance with prior judgments of SC. In the Shreya Singhal case, the court allowed challenges to blocking orders in high courts. In the Kashmir Internet ban case, the court said any order restricting access to the internet should be put in the public domain.
- The government should block access to information only when an affected party is given a fair hearing in courts. Direct blocking should be permissible only in emergency situations.
- Blocking orders must be put in the public domain along with proper reasoning. The power of government to limit the flow of information needs to be rationalized.
At present the extent of free speech depends upon the capacity of multinational social-media platforms to face governments. Twitter managed to stand up against a clear case of overreach. However, other companies may not show similar courage, especially in cases of borderline overreach thereby threatening free speech. Thus, the demand to ensure free speech must come from citizens themselves.
Self-regulatory codes 2020 for OTTs should be allowed
Synopsis: The government should consider allowing the Over-The-Top (OTT) services to self-regulate themselves. Recently, they published a new tool kit to implement the self-regulation code of 2020.
- The Over-The-Top (OTT) services in India have witnessed an increase in subscription revenues during the Pandemic. The growth has been so significant that major films started releasing over OTTs, against the earlier trends.
- The growth of OTT and the absence of censorship regulation for the OTT’s supported the growth of creative talent in the film-making industry.
- However, there are growing concerns regarding the misuse of creative freedom. Many court cases filed against them.
- For instance, in UP the Amazon Prime Video series has been charged with cyberterrorism, obscenity, promoting social enmity, and defiling places of worship.
- Similarly, in M.P, a petition has been filed, seeking a court direction to bring OTT channels under the censorship laws.
- Following these developments, the I&B Ministry stated its intention to bring regulatory code on the content for OTT platforms.
- In this backdrop, recently the Internet-based Over-The-Top (OTT) services operationalized a self-regulation code.
Why the government needs to allow the self-regulation code?
- First, the code of self-regulation is in accordance with the Indian rule of law. It accepts IPC rules, laws on women’s and children’s rights, copyright and age-appropriate certification, and parental control. It also upholds the constitutional right to free speech.
- Second, it is also consistent with the 2016 Shyam Benegal committee recommendation on film certification. Some important recommendations are,
- Creative expression should not be curbed in the process of classification of films. It leaves viewing decisions to audiences.
- Furthermore, it also recommended for classifying films by viewer age.
- It called for ensuring transparency in the way reviewing bodies are constituted.
The idea of pre-censoring films and forcing arbitrary cuts based on prejudice is against the values of liberal societies. Hence, the self-regulatory code operationalized by the Over-The-Top (OTT) services needs to be given a chance.
What are the issues in government’s order to Twitter?
Synopsis: The government ordered twitter to shut down user accounts connected with the farm protests. This order hampers fundamental rights and also reveals a complex relationship between the government and large platforms.
The growing digitization of Indian society can be seen in the ongoing farmers’ protest. A new hashtag trends on Twitter for and against the farm laws or protests every day.
- Twitter is quite significant in India despite a lower number of users as compared to Facebook or WhatsApp. It is because Twitter is the default social network for political leaders and foreign governments to make statements.
- The government exercised its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act to block user accounts critical of the farm bills.
- Suspended accounts are in a high number and include a diverse category of users from farm unions, activists, and press publications.
What are the issues in this decision?
The step is against the rights of the users who are not given reasons for the censorship. Secrecy impacts the public’s right to receive information, which is an essential part of the fundamental right to speech and expression.
- Firstly, the public has incomplete information as the actual text of the legal orders was not disclosed. This is an anti-democratic practice that results in unchecked growth of illogical censorship and also leads to a lack of trust.
- Secondly, this outcome has been the failure of the Union executive and Supreme Court. Former framed the process for blocking websites in 2009 and included the secrecy provision; the later failed to examine it.
- For example, the court stated in Shreya Singhal, that a person whose website or account was blocked under section 69A could approach a court. However, accessing legal remedies is difficult when the direction for blocking is secret.
- Thirdly, several state governments are refusing to publish orders on internet shutdowns even after RTI is filed.
- Fourthly, due to absence of any prior notice, users are not given an opportunity to present their defense. This is conflicting with the principles of natural justice. This again goes back to the vagueness and the design faults in the process of how directions under Section 69A are issued.
The way forward
- In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, the court was judging the constitutional acceptability of the telecommunications shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir. In its judgment, It gave a direction for pro-active publication of all orders for internet shutdowns by the government.
- Thus, the directions of blocking should be made public in other cases as well.
- Twitter refused to comply with directions by citing the policy of proportionality. This unconstitutional law is being applied to its maximum capacity. It is confusing that a government formed under the Constitution may be failing to fulfill its duties when other platforms that trade in our data for profit are ready.
Disinformation issue in Cyber Space: Issues and Way forward
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering and its prevention.
Synopsis – Society needs protection from disinformation. The best approach to deal with it, is to take advantage of the mechanisms already developed for cyber-security.
Cyber-attack and disinformation
- Cyber-attacks are aimed at computer infrastructure, while disinformation exploits inherent cognitive biases and logical fallacies.
- Cyber-attacks are executed using viruses, botnets, and social engineering. Disinformation attacks use manipulated information through deep fakes, and cheap fakes.
- Cyber-attacks and disinformation attacks have always been handled individually. But it is time to accept that disinformation is a cyber-security issue.
What is Cognitive Hacking?
Cognitive hacking is an attack that seeks to manipulate the perception of people by taking advantage of their psychological vulnerabilities. The purpose of the attack is behavioural changes, induced through exposure to disinformation.
- Examples of Cognitive hacking- unfounded concern were induced about US 2020 presidential election fraud by disinformation.
How DDoS and disinformation are linked?
- A Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks target websites and online services. The aim is to flood them with more traffic than the server or network can handle. It prevents the completion of legitimate requests and disrupts the services.
- Similarly, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign floods disinformation to an extent that people start to deny the truth.
- Disinformation is used as psychological manipulation of people into performing an action on a mass scale.
Countermeasure for disinformation attacks
The cyber-security experience can be used to develop disinformation defense systems to mitigate disinformation risks.
- First, this can be done by analyzing the tactics of disinformation. It helps to understand the identities of malicious actors, their activities, and behaviors from the cyber-security domain.
- Second, Layered Security- Mechanisms such as Defence-in-Depth can be used to mitigate disinformation threats. A series of proactive filters are required to filter out the fake information.
- Authenticity at the time of login should be the first layer. If the disinformation is still posted, Human and AI can be used for its detection.
|Defense in Depth (DiD) is an approach to cyber-security. In it, a set of defensive mechanisms are layered to secure valuable data and information. If one system fails, another steps up immediately to thwart an attack. For example, Firewall is the first layer, antivirus is the 2nd, Regular patching is the 3rd layer.|
- Third, an Information sharing framework like ISACs is required to collect and exchange information about the identity, content, actions, and behaviors of disinformation actors.
|Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) – An industry-specific organization that collects and shares information on cyber threats to critical infrastructure.|
- The technology sector, civil society, and the government should collaborate to make consumers aware of cyber-attacks.
- Media should be used for spreading awareness among common people.
- Taking advantage of existing cybersecurity frameworks, norms, and tactics is the optimum way to meet this threat.
Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020
What is the News?
17 Over-the-Top (OTT) Platforms have adopted a “toolkit” for effective implementation of the self-regulation code of 2020. The toolkit will be effective from February 10, 2021.
What are OTT platforms?
- It is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. Examples include Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Hotstar, and others. Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.
Universal Self Regulation Codes, 2020
In 2020, OTT platforms signed a universal ‘self-regulation’ code under the Internet and Mobile Association of India(IAMAI). The key features of the code are:
- Regulatory environment: Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary governing statute for online content.
- Age classification: The code includes a framework for age classification and content descriptions for titles as well as access control tools.
- Consumer Complaints:: Each OTT platform will have to set up a Consumer Complaints Department. Other than that an advisory panel to deal with complaints, appeals, and escalations will also be set up.
Government’s Response to the Code:
- The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had refused to support the self-regulatory code. The grounds for rejection were that it lacks independent third-party monitoring, does not have a well-defined Code of Ethics, does not clearly enunciate prohibited content. Moreover, there is an issue of conflict of interest in grievance redressal.
- Purpose: Toolkit will help in the implementation of the code 2020 of the OTT platforms. It will also address the feedback received from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the issues of conflict of interest and prohibited content.
- Implementation of the Code: It will also frame the code of ethics and guiding principles for the signatory OTTs.
- Guidance: Further, The toolkit will guide OTTs on various dimensions like:
- Grievance redressal mechanism
- Relevant laws of the land,
- Awareness programs for consumers
- Training programs for creative and legal teams
- Implementation of a detailed audit and compliance mechanism.
- Secretariat: A ‘secretariat’ will be set up for monitoring the implementation of the code. It would have representatives from the OTT platforms and IAMAI.
Source: The Hindu
Privacy Issues in government backed Apps
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus– GS 3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, space, computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights IPR.
Synopsis- Data privacy issues related to government technology platforms and their possible solutions.
- This shows that Indian consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about data privacy.
- However, since the first COVID lockdown, at least 35 mobile apps have been launched across India. All these apps specifically address COVID-19 related information. But the privacy issues in these Apps have not been addressed.
What are the challenges with government technology platforms?
- First, Government monopoly – Governments typically have a monopoly in providing public services. Thus, porting out or digital migration is not possible in that case. For example, there is no alternative to Aadhar, Aarogya setu app.
- Second, lack of consistency– Most of the COVID-19 apps launched by State governments have lacked consistency in terms of the features, functionalities, and information updates. This is due to the reason that updation of data in government tech platforms carried out manually.
- Third, Data privacy is also a cause of concern in many of these government applications. For example- Most of the apps are only informative and intended to issue advisories. But they have sought permissions for location, photos, storage, and camera.
- Fourth, most of these apps failed to meet the necessity and proportionality principle of data privacy.
- Necessity- According to this principle, data must be adequate, relevant, and limited to the purpose for which they are processed. In simple words, is the data necessary for the mobile application to achieve its goal?
- Proportionality- If the action must be sanctioned by law, then it must have a legitimate aim. Apart from that, there must be procedural guarantees against any abuses also.
What needs to be done to improve government technology platforms?
- First, The government should work on a collective database structure by combining two or more state/organisation’s apps. This can prevent multiple unwanted permission requests in apps and can also address data privacy issues. For example, integrating Aarogya Setu app with the State mobile apps to provide integrated service.
- Second, the government can follow a decentralized approach. Many European countries are moving towards a decentralized system for contact tracing apps. These apps offer greater protection against abuse and misuse of people’s data compared to centralized apps. This is because,
- The chances of data abuse and misuse are less because information residing in many individual systems and not in a centralized system.
- Third, clear regulation on government technology platforms. This can contribute to improve public services and also improve public trust in the government’s technology initiatives.
- Fourth, structured audit on government-backed technological initiatives. The negatives can be rectified and improve public services. The positives, on the other hand, will boost the government as a potential service provider.
State governments launched mobile apps have proved government has the capacity to deliver technology services to people. But it needs a little course correction to improve public confidence.
Centre’s Powers under “Section 69A of IT Act”
What is the News?
The Government of India has asked Twitter to follow Indian laws. The government has also expressed disappointment over partial compliance with its orders.
What was the issue?
- The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY) ordered Twitter to block several Twitter accounts for posing a threat to law and order. The order was issued under Section 69A of the Information Technology(IT) Act.
- On this, Twitter blocked several accounts. But very soon it reactivated several of them citing free speech and because it found the content newsworthy.
- The government has said that Twitter was free to formulate its own rules and guidelines. But the Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules.
- On free speech, the government has said that freedom of speech and expression is provided under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India.
- However, freedom of expression is not absolute, and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India.
Section 69A of the Information Technology(IT) Act:
- When was it introduced? Section 69A of the IT Act was introduced by an amendment to the Act in 2008.
- Powers: It allows the government to block public access to any intermediary in the interest of
- Sovereignty and integrity of India
- Defence of India
- Security of the state
- Friendly relations with the foreign States or
- Public order or
- Preventing incitement of any cognisable offence relative to the above.
- Intermediaries: The intermediaries under the Act include; telecommunication companies, internet service providers, network operators, web-hosting services, search engines, payment gateways and other relevant portals and services.
- Procedure: Section 69A provides the government with the power to block public access. But the procedure to do that is listed in the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
- Penal Provisions: The Act says prescribes punishment for any intermediary (internet platform) for failure to comply with the government direction. Punishment can be imprisonment for up to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
Source: The Hindu
Issues of restricting free speech in name of fake news
Source: The Indian Express
Synopsis: MHA has recommended criminalizing the spread of misleading news about vaccines. This step would have many repercussions.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a recommendation letter to all state governments. In that, the MHA mentioned that state governments can pursue criminal action against individuals and organisations for spreading misleading rumours about the vaccine’s efficacy.
This recommendation has been issued as per the provision of the Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2005 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
It has again raised the issue of curtailing free speech under the cover of fake news.
Restrictions on Free Speech in India
- According to the constitution, the right to free speech can only be restricted on the basis of valid grounds listed under Article 19(2). Grounds are interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality.
- The SC has also stated that the grounds of restrictions on free speech must be inspected thoroughly. Vague and overbroad grounds are unconstitutional.
What can be the potential outcomes of the suggestion given by MHA?
The orders by MHA will give the police unrestricted freedom to detain and prosecute individuals for raising questions about government actions. For instance, some state governments used state regulations under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and DMA to criminalise fake news and unnecessary information during the lockdown.
There were many examples in the past about its potential outcomes. They are
- First, the CPA (Criminal Justice and Police Accountability) Project’s study found that many FIRs had been registered across Madhya Pradesh for spreading rumors about COVID-19. In one instance, FIR registered against an individual who declared support for Tablighi Jamaat on WhatsApp.
- Second, Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) report has documented 55 cases of targeting of journalists during the lockdown. State governments have prosecuted people for reporting on the mishandling of the pandemic, corruption, and the lack of state support for migrant workers.
What should have the government done instead?
Public trust in the government during a crisis depends upon transparency, not criminal prosecution. So the government has to avoid using laws to suppress the critics.
- The democratic government needs to be effectively transparent and accountable.
- The government can involve in scientific responses to valid criticism and unscientific misconceptions. This will build strong public opinion and support for the government.
The government violates the principle of informed consent. There is also a failure to communicate necessary information to the public which is important for healthcare. The government has to work on it.
Regulating tech giants in India- Explained
Recently Indian government issued a notice to Twitter after it restored more than 250 suspended accounts. On January 31st Twitter suspended these accounts as per the government’s order. These accounts were allegedly promoting misinformation about the farmer’s protests.
The tech giants with their power to influence the market, society, and governments are involved in unethical trade practices and antitrust activities all over the world. India is not an exception to them. This raises the important question to regulate tech giants in India.
Tech giants controversial practices in India:
First, The photo-sharing app of Facebook (Instagram) went into controversy in 2020. It failed to take any action over the controversy called Bois Locker Room (mostly run by Indian teenagers).
Second, Facebook employees themselves are questioning the procedure and content regulation practice of Facebook’s Indian team. 11 of its employees also wrote a letter to the Facebook management about the policy head decision to allow certain posts that spread hate and racial content.
Third, CCI (Competition Commission of India) initiated two antitrust investigations against Google in 2020. One for unfairly promoting its own payments app (Google Pay). The other for involving in anti-competitive practices by restricting companies from creating modified versions of Android OS for smart TVs.
Fourth, In 2019, the Enforcement Directorate (E.D.) commenced its investigation into alleged violations by Amazon and Flipkart for their prohibition of FDI in business-to-consumer (B2C) enterprises except where specific conditions are met.
Fifth, Twitter displayed a map of Leh as part of China and later as part of Jammu and Kashmir state (instead of a separate Union Territory). For that , a legal notice has been served to Twitter.
Impact of Tech giants in India:
First, the usage of the targeted algorithm: tech giants are using users’ search data to push advertisements to the users. The ads are specifically targeted to users based on their recent search over the internet.
Third, the tech giants involved in predatory pricing and monopolistic trade practices. They usually drive out competitors using anti-competitive behaviour. For example, accusations on Amazon favouring their self-branded products over third-party products.
Fourth, the impact on big tech giants on society. The big techs are the foremost medium of fake news, hate speech, etc. These were seen as un-democratic activities by countries.
Fifth, their potential to influence the country. The combined market capitalization of the big techs is more than the GDP of most countries except China and the USA. The sheer economic presence and their market presence (like Google handles more than 90% of online searches) make them create aggressive clauses in their terms and conditions, contract agreements etc.
How India is regulating big Techs?
First, The government enacted the Competition Act, 2002. The Act established the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Later the Act was amended in 2007. The CCI has been established to eliminate practices having an adverse effect on competition. The commission also promotes and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers. The CCI will step in if any of the tech giants will get involved in the anti-competitive practice.
For example, In 2018, the CCI concluded its investigation into Google’s advertising policies. The CCI declared that Google had abused its dominant position and involved in the anti-competitive practice. The CCI also imposed fine on Google of Rs.136 crore.
Second, The Information and Technology Act, 2000 govern all activities related to the use of computer resources in India. Some of the important provisions of the Act are
- Section 69 of the Act gives power to the government to issue directions “to intercept, decrypt or monitor…any information generated, transmitted, received or stored” in any digital equipment.
- Section 69A of the Act provides power to the government to block access to any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted in the digital space.
- Intermediaries (providers of network service, telecom service, Internet service and web hosting) are required to preserve and retain specified information. They also have to obey the directions issued by the government from time to time.
- In return intermediaries are protected from legal action for user-generated content (The big techs used this clause to move away from liability and responsibility in digital space).
Challenges in regulating big techs:
First, smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become a major driver for the growth of big tech companies in the last decade. India is currently witnessing a massive growth in smartphone usage and IoT. India is also witnessing increase in the population of users who are coming online for the first time. So regulating Big Techs strictly will leave the consumer with no other alternative. Hence, it is important to cater to the needs of people.
Second, everyday life is dependent on various apps and technologies. Nowadays technology is linked with remote working and studying, public transport, shopping, telemedicine, on-demand music, and video streaming, etc. Tech giants with their presence in digital space created a monopoly in essential services.
Third, the essential nature of the services provided by them. These tech giants provide Freedom of Expression to individual and also made billions of people to depend on their services. Like, Google on the internet, Amazon on e-commerce etc.
Fourth, the challenge of cross-platform connectivity: Users of Facebook and Google can sign in and access services over food, grocery delivery, and various other companies. This can be used to mine the accounts of users. This creates a challenge to regulate the tech giants alone. To get a proper desired output, one need to regulate the entire ecosystem. But it is not feasible.
Suggestions to regulate Big Techs:
It is essential to strengthen the Competition Law. In this regard, the Competition Law Review committee has recommended the following:
- First, an introduction of a ‘Green Channel’: This is to enable fast-paced regulatory approvals for the vast majority of mergers and acquisitions that have no concerns regarding adverse effects on competition.
- Second, introducing a dedicated bench in NCLAT (National Company Law Appellate Tribunal) to hear appeals under the Competition Act.
- Third, opening up of CCI offices at the regional level: This will help to carry out non-adjudicatory functions and interaction with State Governments in controlling the Big Techs.
Recently in the US also House of Representatives panel submitted the report of a bipartisan investigation into the working of Big Techs. They recommended,
- First, the Structural separations of the big techs: By breaking big tech’s companies into many smaller ones. This will reduce their undue influence over the digital market space.
- Second, to prohibit mergers and acquisitions : putting a “presumptive prohibition” against big tech companies.
- Third, companies should be prohibited from operating in an “adjacent line of business”.
Considering the size of the Indian economy which is in the top five Economies of the World, controlling Big Tech is the key to ensure fair competition. The need of the hour is the passage of the Personal Data Protection Bill along with the incorporation of the recommendations of the Competition Law Review Committee and exploring the possibility of implementing the US House of Representatives panel’s report.
Internet shutdowns in India: impacts and way forward
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Synopsis: Frequent internet shutdown by the state has many negative consequences. Governments must find alternatives to balance civil liberties and security.
- The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 under the Indian Telegraph Act contains the procedure to restrict internet access.
- The Rules empowers the central and state governments to suspend internet services during public emergencies or for protecting the public interest.
- However, this provision has been frequently used in India. In the past 4 years, India has witnessed more than 400 internet shutdowns throughout the country. Which is the highest compared to any democracy in the world.
- For instance, after the abrogation of Article 370, J&K witnessed the longest Internet shutdown across the world.
- Most recently, Internet services were shut down in Delhi NCR following the violence that erupted during the Farmers protest on Republic day.
- Many civil society organizations including UN rights groups have termed these shutdowns a form of collective punishment for people, and an overreach of governments on citizens’ rights and liberties.
What are the views of the Supreme court in this regard?
- In January 2020, the Supreme Court has declared that the right to access the Internet is one of the fundamental rights.
- It is a part of Article 19 of the Constitution along with the freedom to carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of the Internet.
What are the negative impacts of Internet shutdown?
Arbitrary internet shutdowns have many undetermined consequences. Particularly during the crisis of the pandemic.
- First, Lack of internet connectivity or digital illiteracy will force many citizens to be excluded from social and economic systems.
- Second, Blanket bans on digital connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis will widen digital inequalities.
- Third, it will cut off the most vulnerable i.e. the elderly, and pregnant women, from accessing vital digital health services, health and welfare alerts.
- Fourth, it denies access to learning for students as most of the classes are shifting online to maintain physical distancing norms.
- Fifth, internet shutdown will cause large-scale disruptions in the economy. Many white-collar employment sectors, including IT, financial and consulting services, have resorted to working from home option. For example, according to an estimation India has lost over ₹20,000 crore in 2020 because of Internet shutdowns.
What is the Way forward?
- Internet bans should be used as a last resort and must be enforced following well-formulated protocols.
- Emergency response and relief systems for the vulnerable should be planned in advance before enforcing internet shutdowns.
- Other alternatives should be used. Cyber divisions of law enforcement agencies can be upgraded to use new-age innovations such as mass surveillance systems and communication interceptors.
- The government should focus on balancing civil liberties with security concerns. For that modern, independent institutions having expertise in this domain, can be created.
Twitter might face penal action under IT Act
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering and its prevention
Synopsis- Twitter unilaterally restored accounts despite government order for blocking.
- The Ministry of Electronics and IT ordered Twitter to block more than 250 tweets/Twitter accounts. The order was issued for were making fake, intimidating, and provocative tweets.
- The development came in the wake of violence in Delhi on January 26 during a tractor parade of farmers, protesting against the three farm bills.
- Accounts included were linked to an influential magazine, members of an opposition party, and the protest movement such as Kisan Ekta Morcha.
- Many accounts were blocked after the order. However, the majority of them are restored.
Under which Act Twitter was ordered to withhold the accounts?
Section 69(A) of the IT Act 2000 empowers the government to order block online content to an intermediary. The grounds for such order include sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense.
It is the same section, under which Chinese Apps have been banned in India. The content attached to the said hashtag had been found to be directly falling under Section 69A of the IT Act. Twitter may face penal action for not complying with directions issued.
This section has been criticized for the secrecy of its process. However, in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2015) SC upheld the validity of this section.
The government’s stand on farmer’s protest is debatable. However, the inflammatory content and Incitement to genocide cannot be interpreted as freedom of speech as it is a threat to law and order.
This situation may lead to a face-off between tech giant and the government.
Ways to control Monopolistic tendencies of Internet Giants
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus– GS 3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, space, computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology, and issues relating to intellectual property rights IPR.
Synopsis- The lawmakers are facing the confusion between managing the misuse of monopoly power by major Internet corporations and the economic income generated by them.
In the US and Europe, governments are using antitrust regulations against Internet giants such as Facebook and Google. This is to stop the alleged abuse of the dominant position.
Some are comparing this case to the prior U.S. antitrust inquiries. At the conclusion of this inquiry in 1982, the break-up of the AT&T was dictated by the Department of Justice.
What are the key differences this time when compared to the earlier antitrust investigations?
There are three major variations relative to the earlier investigation-
- First, Information non-competition– These big industries are based on information or data. There is no competition between 2 similar companies. While earlier telecom companies faced competition due to limited network capacity.
- Second, Jurisdictional issues– Telecom is jurisdictional and regulators have the authority to create guidelines for orderly actions. In contrast, Internet firms operate globally. Thus, it is often difficult for various country regulators to set international laws of obligation and compliance.
- Third, Non-excludable– The nature of goods and services provided by the Internet is non-excludable, unlike telecom. It means it is not exclusive for anyone or anyone can access or enter into it.
How information goods provided by private Internet firms causing problems?
This non-excludable and non-rival model is creating the following issues:
- First, Personalize Advertisement and third-party sharing– Internet businesses are earning through targeted ads by sharing personal information and data to third-party for monetization purposes.
- Second, Monopoly- Tech giants are involved in the wrong means such as takeover or suppression of competition, resulting in an uneven playing ground for other organizations.
However, there are positives externalities too, such as-
- Google Maps API [application Program Interface] use by all logistics and transport companies and Facebook API for advertisement.
- Recently, Google announced to provide accurate and timely information about vaccine distribution.
What are the possible solutions to regulate Tech giants?
- First, need to subsidize the good– Tax subsidies should be granted for tech giant’s orderly behaviour.
- Second, there should be controlled expansion of products and services. This needs to be done without damaging the interests of customers and smaller rival companies.
- Third, as pointed out by the Australian government, the tech giants such as Google and Facebook must negotiate a fair payment for services such as news by the media industry.
The balance between controlling the monopolistic tendencies of internet giants and establishing an environment of positive externalities must be created.
A secure digital space needs to be established where the human rights of all consumers of digital resources are secured.
Stopping hate on TV is essential to prevent riots: SC
What is the news?
The Supreme Court in a recent hearing has said that stopping hate on television is essential for law and order.
- What was the case? A batch of petitions alleged that certain sections of the media communalized the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. It linked the congregation to a spike in the spread of COVID-19 infection
Key Highlights of the Supreme Court Order:
- The Supreme Court said that the Fair and truthful reporting is not a problem. The problem arises when the reporting is used to agitate others.
- Hence, it asked the Central Government about its powers under Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1994. Under this act, the government can control the broadcast of content (by electronic media) that has a tendency to incite violence.
- Government Response:
- The Solicitor General said that the Government has powers to regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any channel or programme for public order.
- There is also a group under the Ministry to monitor broadcast content for violation.
- However, the problem arises during live, discussion-based programmes, as there cannot be pre-censorship of such programmes.
Source: The Hindu
Source: Indian Express
GS-2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Synopsis: Draft data protection law needs to be enacted in India to curb data privacy violations in India.
What is the issue?
- This data would include transaction data, mobile device information, IP addresses, and other metadata on how users interact with businesses on WhatsApp.
- This is a classic case of an organization using its near-monopolistic power against the interest of Consumers.
- The government responded strongly by asking the platform to withdraw proposed changes. Along with this, the government sought their response to 14 queries related to their practices in India.
Why it is a cause of concern?
- First, Even though sharing will be done by notifying the user it is against the Principle Of Purpose Limitation. The principle has been used to address Privacy concerns at a global level.
- Second, Facebook has a poor record on data protection of its users. For example, Analytica data scam during the 2016 US elections and Brexit.
- Third, recently there were reports stating that Facebook is entering into data-sharing deals with other tech firms like Apple, Amazon, Spotify.
Principle Of Purpose Limitation
What is the way forward?
- First, the government should pass the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) 2019 because of the following reasons,
- It has the provision on Principle Of Purpose Limitation. This would have restricted WhatsApp’s action as it is illegal against the Principle Of Purpose Limitation.
- Such practices are not allowed in the EU. Their users’ private data is protected by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- Second, given the digital proliferation in the country tech giants needs to be monitored closely through competent legal and regulatory frameworks.
In India, the User base of social media for communications and business is increasing at a fast pace. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to ensure a safer digital space.
Privacy and surveillance
Facebook’s revenue model uses data on its platform to allow advertisers to target relevant consumers.
Now Facebook Inc. wants to integrate the services from WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. The intent behind this step is to monetise their use by consumers.
WhatsApp is one of the most used Social Media App in India. It is capable to share user metadata and mobile information of Indian users with Facebook, its parent company.
Now, Indian government is looking for ways to protect the data privacy of Indian Users.
What are the steps that government can take?
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has sent WhatsApp a series of queries. It includes, why Indian users would be sharing information with Facebook, unlike EU.
- Data protection laws in the EU have strict restrictions on storage and transfer of user data. Thus, data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook is not possible in such regions.
- Whereas, in 2019, government in India diluted the provisions of Data protection bill. For, example, it only set the requirement of keeping sensitive personal data in India. Whereas, in the Srikrishna Committee recommended the same for all personal data.
- The Indian government should also bring in a strong data protection bill which aligns with the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee.
- The committee tried to address concerns about online data privacy in line with the 2018 Puttaswamy judgment.
However, data localisation also carries the possibility of domestic surveillance over Indian citizens.
Privacy is better addressed by stronger contractual conditions on data sharing and better security tools being adopted by the applications that secure user data. Thus, with the data localisation, stronger checks on state surveillance are also required.
Issue of Big Tech’s increasing power
- Recently, sitting US President Mr. Trump’s account was removed from online platforms like Twitter, Facebook.
- This has divided the world with two contrasting views.
- Few people say that the social media companies were right to suspend Trump’s accounts.
- While others are concerned about the enormous power that these platforms wield over the public discourse, and their impact on democracy.
Issue of Parler app removal from tech giant platforms
- Parler is a social networking site that remained as an alternative to Twitter.
- Recently, Amazon removed it from its cloud hosting service Amazon Web Services (AWS). (AWS). Similarly, Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores.
- This incident demonstrated the enormous power that Amazon wields as a web infrastructure service provider.
- This has also raised concerns about how the bigger tech players can destroy new competition due to their stronghold over the cloud infrastructure. For example,
- AWS controlled 45 per cent of the cloud infrastructure in 2019, while Google and Microsoft control much of the rest.
Issues in action against Trump
In many instances, the tech giants have responded with inconsistency in their actions.it has been discussed below with examples.
- First, In March 2020, Facebook and Twitter deleted posts by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro for Covid19 misinformation.
- But no action was taken against Trump, who was also propagating misinformation about the Pandemic.
- Second, during the Black Lives Matter protests Trump tweeted “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. This was an act of glorifying violence. However, Twitter responded very lately to remove the tweet.
- Third, the action against Trump was only taken after he lost his political leverage. Congress had ratified the victory of President-elect Joe Biden before that.
- Fourth, Digital platforms are for-profit corporations. Over the years, digital platforms have never been neutral arbiters and are acting in the nexus with the state governments.
- For instance, these platforms have repeatedly blocked the ability of Wikileaks to accept donations on PayPal and other payment intermediaries.
- Fifth, after a 2018 court order, Trump was forced to unblock several dozen followers. The argument was put forward by petitioners that they were entitled to follow the official announcements and comment on public affairs of the handle.
- If the same logic is applied in the case of Trump ban, he cannot be stopped from making public announcements by a social media company.
What is the way forward?
- Experts agree that the rules and guidelines of social networks are not being consistently applied throughout the world.
- The issue should be resolved by setting up a common global rule for social networks.
- EU countries are the pioneers in regulating the tech giant with investigations, fines, and legislation. They have taught the world how to control these giants without expelling them from the country’s economy.
Why in News?
Questions Posed by Government to WhatsApp:
Source: Business Standard
- Privacy of Citizens: The policy should be reconsidered to respect the informational privacy, freedom of choice and data security of Indian citizens.
- All or nothing approach: Government has objected to the all-or-nothing approach of WhatsApp. This approach forces users to accept the new service terms and privacy policies, without giving an option to opt-out.
- Supreme Court Judgments: Government has reminded WhatsApp about the Puttaswamy vs. Union of India(2017) judgment where the Supreme Court has ruled that Fundamental Right to Privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and comes under Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
Need for social media Policies on hate and incitement
Synopsis- Social media platforms need clear policies on which they commit to a consistent refusal to help heads of state incite violence.
Introduction- On January 6, when the extremists stormed the United States Capitol building, Trump’s social media accounts were active and communicating.
- After this incident, social media companies blocked particular communications including videos of the speech, and then suspended Trump’s accounts.
- Eventually, Trump was barred from using Facebook and Twitter.
How a ban on Trump has been justified by companies?
Soon after the ban, Critics pointed out that social media companies should not “censor” a president for making ‘Politically biased decisions’.
As per social media companies, Trump did not stop at expressing dissatisfaction about the electoral outcome. But he chose to insist that the election was “stolen”, calling for action. This took his speech beyond the realm of political opinion into the realm of incitement. Thus,
- A head of state cannot be allowed to incite violence.
- If restrictions were not enforced, Social media would have amplified the incitement, given the connection between his words and the violence.
- Moreover, Trump has access to the mass media, thus it doesn’t affect his freedom of expression.
Challenges in front of Social Media Companies:
The First challenge is regarding what to allow on the platform
- Social Media platforms have a major impact on public life, thus platforms ought to follow international human rights law, especially the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- For example; they must ensure they do not facilitate genocides such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.
- On the other hand, Social Media need to ensure democratic debates on the imp. Issues like the COVID-19 virus, vaccines, abortion, Kashmir, LGBTQ rights, or marital rape.
- Social Media platforms have a major impact on public life, thus platforms ought to follow international human rights law, especially the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Second challenge is linked to the speaker
- Barring a whistle-blower would have more impact compared to the head of state. Because Whistle-blower has no access to mass media.
- In contrast, a head of state like Trump who is barred from social media has access to the mass media.
The third challenge is regarding the measurement of communication effectiveness
It also varies depending on the speaker and the audience.
- Incitement by a head of state is more dangerous than incitement by a powerless, ordinary individual because an influential speaker is much more likely to actually incite violence.
- A powerful leader can persuade his followers that it is acceptable and even righteous to engage in violence.
Why a policy is required?
- Earlier in mid-2020, Facebook refused to regulate the US President’s inflammatory posts due to its “newsworthiness” exception.
- Earlier, while Twitter suspended another account posting copies of Trump’s tweets for glorifying violence, left the president’s tweets up. This was because of Twitter’s exception for public or elected officials’ speech which is seen as being in “public interest”.
- Now, these platforms have taken a step against incitement once the election result is confirmed.
Social media needs to deal with this kind of issue in future very seriously. The platforms like Facebook and Twitter (Fourth Pillar of Democracy) should not be circulating speech that is very likely to cause violence. They need clear policies in which they commit to a consistent refusal to help heads of state incite violence.
What is the clarification WhatsApp has issued?
In its latest clarification, WhatsApp is trying to differentiate between “messages with friends or family” and “messages with a business”.
Whatsapp says that the latest changes only affect the “messages with a business”. Policy regarding “messages with friends or family” will remain the same.
In its clarification WhatsApp has issued the following statements:
- Personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption and neither accessed nor heard by WhatsApp or Facebook.
- No log of personal messages or calls has been maintained due to “privacy and security risk”.
- Location shared by users are also protected by end-to-end encryption and cannot be seen by WhatsApp or Facebook.
- Any user’s contact is not shared with Facebook or any other App.
- All the communications within WhatsApp groups are end-to-end encrypted and are not shared with Facebook for Ads.
How business messages are different?
- Businesses on Facebook will be able to create Facebook shops to create an online store and interact with the users through WhatsApp.
- WhatsApp will soon offer businesses with Facebook’s hosting services to manage their communication with users.
- On these hosting services, Businesses will soon be provided with the facilities to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions and send information like purchase receipts.
- Businesses will be allowed to use the above information for their marketing, including ads on Facebook.
- However, Businesses using Facebook’s hosting services will be labelled, to make the user aware of what follows.
- If the users are interacting with the businesses on WhatsApp for shopping or other purposes, their shopping activities will be shared with Facebook to personalise their experience on the related ads on Facebook and Instagram.
- Privacy policies of different countries put different types of restrictions on businesses. EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides much more control to the users on their personal information shared on the online platforms.
- As per WhatsApp’s own policy for EU, Users there can access, rectify, port, and erase their information.
- They can not only restrict or object to a certain type of information used by the platform but also can withdraw their consent to WhatsApp for processing of data.
How data is protected in India?
In Puttaswamy v India (2017) case, privacy was established as a fundamental right. In other cases, MP Sharma v. Satish Chandra (1954) and Kharak Singh v. Uttar Pradesh (1962), as well, Privacy rights were upheld by SC.
As India has not implemented the Personal Data Protection Bill, there is no control over how user data will be processed by tech companies.
Apart from this IT Act 2000, and its amendment in 2008 deal with data protection to some extent.
- Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, provides a measure of legal protection of personal information
- Breach of data privacy is punishable under Section 72-A of the IT Act. The Act Penalises the offender for three year imprisonment or a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh.
- But this provision is only applicable to corporate entities not to individuals.
- Rules are restricted to sensitive personal data — medical history, biometric information, and sexual history, among other things.
Justice BN Srikrishna committee report talks about three approaches to data protection and a draft data protection bill.
- The US model of laissez-faire approach: The USA does not have an overarching data protection framework.
- European Model of GDPR: Provides control of personal data in the hands of the data generators (Users)
- China’s model of protecting National interests: China created a national law in 2017 which contains top-level principles for handling personal data.
Key Features of the Policy:
- End-to-End Encrypted: The messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted which means nobody can see your messages or share it with anyone.
- Information Sharing with Third Party Services: When users rely on third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.
- Hardware Information: WhatsApp collects information from devices such as battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP) among others.
- Deleting the Account: If someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, then that user’s information will remain stored with the platform.
- Data Storage: WhatsApp mentions that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers including those in the United States to store user data. It also states that the data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based.
- Location: Even if a user does not use their location-relation features, Whatsapp collects IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country).
- Businesses interacting with users: WhatsApp says that any businesses that users interact with may provide the platform with information as well. The content shared with a business on WhatsApp will be visible to several people in that business.
- Payment Services: WhatsApp says that if anyone uses their payments services they will process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.
India’s digital strike
Context- The government of India has blocked 43 new Chinese app which are prejudicial to sovereignty and Integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
Why Indian Government ban these apps?
- Defence and security concern– These apps are involved in activities against India’s sovereignty, integrity, defense, security and law and order.
- Data Privacy Issue – The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) banned apps on reports of stealing and transmitting user’s data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.
- Strong move by the government that sends out a strong message that Indian data cannot be compromised.
- Opportunity for Indian– The recent ban on Chinese app is a good opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to quickly rise to fill market gaps.-
- This opportunity has also opened up the job market under the segment which will eventually have an added boost to the Indian economy.
- The ban may be useful for India to use its vast market for Internet services as leverage in its attempts to keep China in check at the border.
What are the concerns related to Chinese apps ban?
There are issues with the government gag against Chinese apps-
- This can trigger an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm.
- Create negative image– This creates a big uncertainty for the foreign investors, and often results in reduces outflow of foreign investment.
What is the way forward?
- Need for A Data Protection Law: Data privacy and security remains to be major challenges emanating from the ongoing digital revolution. Thus, a data protection law is long overdue.
- India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.
Social and Digital media regulations in India | 24th November
Issue of Digital/Social media regulations in India
In the backdrop of the increasing popularity of online platforms (OTT, Social Media Etc.) in India and world over in the recent times, many efforts are being made to regulate the content being posted on them.
The latest attempt in this row has been made by the Kerala Government. Kerala government has recently amended the Kerala Police Act by incorporating a new Section, 118 (A).
Provisions of the controversial Kerala law
- Any person who sends or creates any information that is offensive or is intended to offend or threaten another person, through any means of communication, is liable to face imprisonment of five years or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both.
- Make the offence as a cognisable(Police can arrest the person without warrant and investigate the person without the permission of the Court) and provides a punishment of three years.
|Ø Criminal defamation under the IPC is a non-cognisable offence and no police officer can register an FIR for the offence; it can only be prosecuted as a private complaint. Apart from that, the punishment prescribed in IPC is only two years.|
Ø Similar offence for Sec. 199 Cr.P.C.: No court shall take cognisance of defamation unless the aggrieved party files a complaint.
- As per the government, Section 118(A) is meant to protect people, particularly women, transgenders and other vulnerable sections from social media abuse.
Relevant points from judgments:
- In Shreya Singhal Case Supreme court said that when a provision of law suffers from Vagueness and unclear about the terms and penal provisions used then that provision of law can be struck down by the judiciary (Supreme Court struck down Section 66Aof IT Act and also Section 118(d) of Kerala Police Act as a violation of Fundamental Rights enshrined under Article 19 (1))
- Kerala High court itself said
“Existing laws which deal with the defamation and other allied offences are sufficient to address these kinds of issues. So, there is no need for separate legislation for offences like defamation, modesty of women and transgender etc.,”
- By making defamatory utterances cognisable and raising the prison term, the Kerala ordinance effectively amends the IPC and Cr.P.C., a move for which the Centre’s (President’s) assent is mandatory, as it is in conflict with central laws.
Regulations of Digital media
Recently, the government has brought digital/online media platforms, films release on OTT, and audio-visual programs, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from the ambit of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
New regulations added 2 new categories i.e.
- Films and Audio Visual programmes made available by online content providers
- News and Current Affairs on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
In recent cases involving Sudarshan news, the government on the requirement of regulating the electronic media stated that regulating the digital media was more pressing.
At present, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) represents the news channels, the Press Council of India regulates the print media, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors film, while the Advertising Standards Council of India regulates advertising.
Last month, a law was passed stating that digital news platforms could not have more than 26% foreign investment.
Need for regulating OTT platforms
- Video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have become key distributors for new movies and entertainment content during the COVID restrictions and have multiplied their subscribers in India in recent years. But they do not require any certification before any new releases.
- In contrast, new movies, before theatrical release, have to get through the certification process of the Central Board of Film Certification.
Need for regulating digital/social media platforms
- Ability of digital/social Media to Reach, Scale and size is huge compare to print and other media.
- While electronic media in India is regulated by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, there was no law or body to oversee digital content. Some people are taking an undue advantage which leads to too much voice and noise in social media.
- Recently, India has seen a surge in the number of fake news items in circulation, especially on WhatsApp and Face book.
- Absence of editorial control in digital/ social media leads to large scale user-generated content which is unregulated
- In 2018, fake information that was circulated on WhatsApp led to the lynching of five men in Maharashtra and there are many such instances.
- In this time, when India is in conflict with its neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan, there is a possibility of Foreign-funded digital platforms running to defame our country.
- There is also evidence of fake information influencing the process of election in the USA which undermines the root of democracy.
Issues in regulating the OTTs, digital and social media
- When it comes to regulating digital news content, new regulations may end up facilitating more governmental interference and censorship which impacts the Right to freedom of speech and expression (Article 19(1))
- It is expected that regulations might be instrumental in suppressing the freedom, enjoyed by digital media till now and might be targeted at a section that has been bold and forthright in speaking truth to power.
- Digital platforms were till now able to openly create the movies/videos on politically sensitive subjects, now they have to bow down to the political pressures.
- If the government is providing any legislation to regulate the social/digital media then the wider/free for all media houses and persons might face a number of allegations which leads to a huge inflow of cases to the judiciary which is already overburdened.
- The government turned down the self-regulatory proposal proposed by the 15 OTT platforms collectively under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in September this year.
Important provisions of Self-regulatory Proposal by OTTs
Proposed two-tier structure as part of the self-regulatory regime
o 1st tier: Consumer Complaints Department or an internal committee, as well as an advisory panel, which will deal with complaints, appeals, and escalations.
This is the three-member committee of which two of whom will be executives of the streaming service, and one an “independent external advisor” who is not be employed by the company in any capacity.
o 2nd tier: formation of Digital Curated Content Complaints Council (DCCCC) chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court along with an enumeration of prohibited content.
Government Rejected the proposal as the current model does not have third party monitoring options, lacks a well-defined Code of Ethics, the minority status of independent advisor and also gives an unclear picture of content prohibition.
Government also asked IAMAI to look at other self-regulatory models since the government does not support the current one.
- From Social/digital media side has to have a corporate responsibility
- Misinformation has to tackle with information like the one did by YouTube in tackling false information.
- They have to publish transparency reports from their side like Facebook
- From the Government Side
- The government should pass an Act like that of the US to establish a self-regulatory system for media platforms and to hire content moderators to moderate the contents getting published on their platform
- With recent reports posting a number of internet connections recently crossed the 750 million milestones in India, Digital Literacy Programmes has to be encouraged along with Digital India Mission
- Model Code of Conduct implemented by Election Commission of India has been effective and efficient in curbing fake news and misinformation in social/digital media during elections, Government should appoint a study committee to explore the scalability of the same to other aspects as well.
- From Society
- People should understand that freedom in social/digital media should complement with responsibilities envisaged in the Fundamental Duties.
Regulating social/digital media cannot be done from one side. All the stakeholders should have to contribute for the betterment of the platform as a whole is the key else India might follow the USA (Most Americans get their News from suspicious internet source which resulted in extreme polarization of citizen’s view).
A digital sisterhood
Context: Social media helps the independent woman find and forge new solidarities.
The rise of social media is a result of loopholes in the traditional society. Discuss these loopholes.
- Globalisation: Globalisation and the resulting rush of ideas across the world d meant that we are no longer connected only to our physical tribes.
- This has also meant that we do not feel connected to our families and communities in the way that the previous generations were.
- Effect on women: This disconnect is far more distinct in women than in men; because men are more inclined to follow the traditional line of thought, especially since that school of thought heavily privileges them.
- Independent women who have a voice and demand to be heard, who refuse to bow down to the old world order and refuse to fit in with cultural norms of what a woman “ought” to be like.
- Traditional communities fall short: People need to be understood. Their worldview is so different from ours that we have spent much of our lives in isolation; an emotional isolation.
- Distance between generations: The isolation of the modern world has not been brought on by technology alone, but by the new ideas and by the distance between the ideas of the present generation and the previous one.
- Lack of support: Individuals who didn’t conform to normative ideas of social acceptance, traditional communities did not provide much support or emotional nourishment.
- There is no replacement for the feeling of being heard and understood that one gets in the presence of people who can empathise, and offer advice that enables you to live a life that you want.
How should be social media ideally used?
- Social media is a supplement: Social media becomes a hindrance and an isolator only when you begin to use it as a replacement for real-life family and friends, ignoring their physical presence when you are glued to your device even in the presence of people around you.
- Social media is not a substitute for physical networks.
- Seeking genuine and meaningful engagements: Instead of constantly being in battle mode over politics or religion or the newest debate, we need to attempt to genuinely connect with people at a personal level, at the level of ideas and emotions and empathy.
- Some of those online friendships could translate into offline friendships too.
- An additional tribe: There are various support groups popping up on social media now, for this purpose. To help people find their tribes, who would understand them and help them overcome the unending loneliness that is the curse of people whose ideas are vastly different from the physical communities they are a part of.
- In a world that is increasingly becoming a mix of cultures, a mix of identities and a mix of selfhoods, we need a mix of multiple tribes to get through life.
- The notion of tribes and communities needs to evolve as well.
importance of freedom of press in india
What is the importance of the freedom of the press?
Why the arrest is seen as political vendetta?
- First, the editor-in-chief of Republic Television, Arnab Goswami was very critical of the Maharashtra state government on several issues
- On the migrant crisis.
- He alleged a communal angle in the lynching of three men in Palghar district.
- He accused the Mumbai police commissioner and the Maharashtra chief minister of collusion in an alleged cover-up of the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case.
- Second, recently Republic TV was accused of a TRP scam and a case was booked with the FIRs naming several in Republic’s newsroom.
- Third, Goswami has been arrested in a case in which the Maharashtra police had filed a closure report last year citing lack of evidence.
All these incidents reinforce the suspicion that the police are working with partisanship.
How it affects democracy?
- Attack on media persons for political vendetta reduces the spaces for dissent and freedom of speech. For example, journalists being booked under draconian laws of sedition or UAPA in some states.
- It will only lead to the polarisation of the public space and further reduces the scope for independent journalism.
Media ensures dissemination of truth, holds the powerful to account, speaks for the weak and those without a voice. Its sanctity must be protected for the democracy to thrive.
Social Media and hate speech
Social Media & hate speech
Impact of social media: Social media spreads messages way faster than other forms of mass media.
- Nearly 60,000 posts are shared on Facebook in just one second across the globe.
- Nearly 8,00,000 messages are sent in just one second across WhatsApp.
- Almost 70,000 searches are made on Google in just one second.
How social media aids hate speech?
- Unregulated Information sharing on platform– As exposed in a report by an international media organisation, Facebook is symptomatic of a larger infection of unregulated information dissemination through social media.
- Hate speech against Rohingya minorities– A Reuters investigation found that Facebook didn’t appropriately moderate hate speech and genocide calls against Myanmar’s Rohingya minorities.
- Prioritise business interest over common good– It is even accused of conducting a psychological experiment on its user’s emotions and more aspect of their personality. For example, Recently Facebook was accused of conducting a psychological experiment on its user’s emotions and more aspect of their personality.
- Insensible approach– Google has been accused of delaying the removal of malicious content even after volunteer groups had reported it.
Issue of Hate speech in India
In News- Sudarshan TV case will have several implications for the regulation of free speech.
What is hate speech?
The term hate speech is understood as any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis their collective identity, be it race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality.
Hate speech threatens two key doctrines of democracy-
- The guarantee of equal dignity to all
- The public good of inclusiveness.
Criteria to identify hate speech:
- The extremity of the speech.
- Status of the author of the speech.
- Status of victims of the speech.
- Potentiality of the speech.
- Context of the Speech.
Regulation of Hate speech in India
- Constitutional provisions: Article 19(2) of the Constitution gives all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression but subject to “reasonable restrictions” for preserving inter alia “public order, decency or morality”.
- Statutory provisions: India prohibits hate speech by several sections such as Section 95 of CRPC Section 124A or Section 153A or Section 153B or Section 292 or Section 293 or Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.
Committees on Hate Speech
- K Viswanathan Committee recommendations.
- A committee headed by former Lok Sabha Secretary General T.K. Viswanathan submitted a report recommending stricter laws to curb online hate speech
- The panel was formed after Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2015.
- The Bezbaruah Committee was constituted by the Centre in February 2014 in the wake of a series of racial attacks on persons belonging to the northeast
- Though the committee submitted its report in July 2014, the Home Ministry sent out letters to States for their opinion almost four years later, in February this year.
Laws against hate speech:
- Section 295A was also introduced to control series of communal violence.Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished.