Role of Social Media


Issues related to social media in India

Rationale behind New Information Technology Rules, 2021

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Synopsis:

Social media is a direct product of the globalized internet, which connects people all over the globe. It significantly impacts economic, social, and political discourse in a country. Hence, the government formulated new Information Technology Rules, 2021 to regulate them and prevent their misuse.

Background:
  • The internet has revolutionized the world, and we are now in the process of a transition from the industrial to the internet age. 
  • This transition would affect how we see economics, politics, society, governance, democracy, and our fundamental rights. Therefore, it becomes imperative to improve the regulatory framework over the internet and social media. 
  • It is in this context that new Information Technology Rules, 2021 were formulated by the Government of India.
About Social Media:
  • Social media is a direct product of the globalised internet which connects people all over the globe. 
  • It allows people to converse with each other through profiles both known and anonymous. It allows the transmission of information in real-time across the world. 
Information Technology Rules, 2021 related to Social Media:
  • Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. 
    • Information obtained in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc. can be deemed unlawful. The government can order takedown of such information within 24 hours.
  • The user should be given a notice before its 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 rules call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report as well.
  • Social media platforms are classified into two categories – social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries, the latter being platforms with a large user base.
  • The significant social media intermediaries will be obliged to follow some additional measures like:
    • Appointing a Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
      • The chief Compliance Officer shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
      • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
      • Resident Grievance Officer shall receive and resolve complaints from users. The officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
    • These platforms should also have a physical contact address in India, which should be notified on the website and apps.
Rationale behind New Social Media Rules:
  1. First, the rules invoke a minimum regulatory standard on social media. This brings it to par with newspapers, magazines, and websites that are responsible for the content published over them. 
    • The companies are still considered as an intermediary and continue to enjoy immunity under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.
      • Section 79 states that an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information hosted by it if it duly follows the guidelines released by the government.
    • Further, they have screening teams that can duly remove objectionable content. 
      • For instance, Twitter deleted some tweets of former US President Donald Trump in January 2021 and later suspended his account.
  2. Second, the freedom of speech enjoyed over social media is derived from Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. It is subject to the restriction of Article 19(2) that includes public order, security of the state, defamation, etc. grounds. Hence, due restrictions can be imposed on social media.
  3. Third, social media has become a public square in which the most important conversations on politics and society are discussed. Therefore, its regulation becomes imperative for overall societal wellbeing.
  4. Fourth, social media is a commercial product that is being offered with the objective of money-making. Hence, it should be regulated like other commercial products.
    • The fact that a commercial product could be used for a social purpose does not make the product a social good.
  5. Fifth, the big social media companies sometimes attempt to regulate the policies of the government as per their will. This may grow into economic exploitation and political intervention on a grand scale if not duly regulated. 
    • Large-scale intervention can lead to disastrous results, as was shown by the East India Company’s dominant control in the past which led to India’s colonisation.

Source: Click Here    

 Read Also :-New social media rules – an analysis

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

“Safe Harbour Protection” for Twitter Withdrawn

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What is the News?

According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY), Twitter has failed to comply with the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021. This means the “Safe Harbour” Protection under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act is withdrawn for Twitter.

What is “Safe Harbour” Protection under Section 79  of IT Act?
  • Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act provides for the Safe Harbour protection to social media giants.
  • It says that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available on its platform.
  • However, the intermediary should not involve any way in initiating the transmission of the message in question, select the receiver of the transmitted message, and do not modify any information of the transmission.
  • This means that as long as a platform acts just as the messenger carrying a message from point A to point B, it will be safe from any legal prosecution due to the transmission of a message. However, it should be without any interference with its content in any manner,
How the removal of Safe Harbour Protection impacts Twitter?
  • It opens up the platform to the possibility of any type of legal action which was not possible before, as a publisher of content.
  • This means that Twitter will be accountable if someone’s content on Twitter leads to some form of violence or violates any Indian law.
  • Then not only the person that has put out the tweet but also Twitter will be legally liable for the content as it no longer has the protection.

Source: Indian Express

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G7 accommodates Indian stand on the need for “Internet shutdown”

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What is the News?

The G7 countries statement on the Internet Shutdown was amended after India objected to the original language criticising “Internet shutdowns”.

Internet Shutdowns all over the world:
  • According to a report by digital rights and privacy organisation Access Now, of the total 155 internet shutdowns globally in 2020, India alone accounted for 109.
  • The next highest Internet Shutdowns was in Yemen, with six. It was followed by Ethiopia with four.
Examples of Internet Shutdowns in India:
  • Jammu and Kashmir had Internet and mobile telephony shutdown since Article 370 was amended in 2019.
  • Internet shutdowns were also witnessed in Delhi during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act during 2019-2020 and the farmer’s protest in 2020.

Read Also :-The value of the SC’s Kashmir order

What was the original G7 statement on Internet Shutdown?
  • The G7 Countries had issued a statement expressing concerns over actions by states to intentionally disrupt their own populations’ access to data online.
  • The statement noted that internet shutdowns had undermined civic space both online and offline. They also noted that the shutdowns unjustifiably limited access to information and the rights of peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression online.
  • Moreover, the statement also referred to “Politically Motivated Internet Shutdowns” which indirectly addresses Internet blackouts in various parts of the world including India.
What were India’s objections to the G7 statement?
  • India has asked for a change in the original language criticising “Internet shutdowns”.
  • Further, India has objected to the Politically Motivated Internet Shutdowns. India has also said that national security and public order concerns as an exception should be added to the statement.
Was the G7 statement on Internet shutdown changed then?
  • Yes, it was changed. The statement clarified that Internet shutdowns to protect the national security and public order concerns as an exception to the need for Internet freedoms.

Source: The Hindu

Read Also :-“G7 Foreign Ministers Summit” Held

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged ,

Securing privacy and data rights in the age of social audio

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Synopsis: Privacy and data rights remain out of focus on social audio. 

Introduction
The clubhouse is a new social networking app based around audio rooms. It crossed over 2 million Android downloads last month. The main feature of the app is the unique audio medium through which its users interact.

  • This feature makes clubhouse different from other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, and YouTube. These apps use text, images, video, or a combination of three.
  • The app does not have separate texting features or the option to create online profiles. Its focus is purely on audio-based interaction.

What are the issues with such apps?

The nature of the app raises questions on privacy and data rights. Audio rooms bring new challenges for data regulators. As they have not yet found ways to control traditional social media platforms.

 Read Also :-UPSC INTERVIEW ETIQUETTE: BASICS

    • Firstly, audio-based exchanges are faster and in real-time. Thus, traditional methods of content moderation may not work here. Cyber-bullying and trolling, driven by sexism, racism and communalism, can be more damaging on apps like a clubhouse.
    • Secondly, anyone can join any room that their friends are a part of, this makes stalking easier. The app even sends notifications to its followers.
    • Thirdly, the experience on Clubhouse includes a constant awareness about how every action is being shown to followers. This awareness and the fear of being judged will limit people from exploring the app’s content.
      • This is opposite to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter which allow browsing in invisibility.
    • Fourthly, Clubhouse temporarily records the audio in a room while the room is live, this is a major concern. It says that it deletes the recording when the room ends. The app lacks end-to-end encryption, which makes the data still potentially accessible. This recording is done without the consent of the user.
      • Privacy expert Alexander Hanff says the platform’s practices are violating many provisions of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
      • A report by the Stanford Internet Observatory stated that the backend infrastructure of Clubhouse is given by a Chinese start-up called Agora. The report mentions a risk of the Chinese government accessing raw audio and other security flaws.
    • Fifthly, India does not have a strict data protection law: This makes its users more vulnerable to data breaches and privacy violations. The lack of end-to-end encryption in Clubhouse could also make it an easy tool for government surveillance.
    • Lastly, Clubhouse takes permission to access users’ contacts, which is a significant privacy concern. It gives the app information about people who are not even on the app. The contact list can be shared with app developers and with people in a user’s contact list. This affects privacy and contributes to the harassment culture.

 Read Also :-Privacy Issues in government backed Apps

How will the dominant companies in similar space react?

The clubhouse is one of the numerous apps that have grown popular during the COVID-19 as people are looking for new methods to communicate with each other. 

As the popularity of Clubhouse grows, Twitter has launched ‘Spaces’, and Facebook is working on a similar feature. LinkedIn, Discord, Reddit and Spotify are doing the same.

The conclusion
Clubhouse might seem like a lightweight app, but it does not offer much in terms of securing privacy and data rights. It is not very different from traditional platforms. Social audio won’t truly progress until innovation is balanced with respect for privacy, security and data rights.

Source: click here

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Protecting human rights in the age of disinformation

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Synopsis: Despite the threat of information disorder (spread of disinformation), human rights-friendly governance is both possible and achievable.

Introduction 

The Supreme Court of India (SC) recently warned against any attempt to curb free speech. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Special Rapporteur gave a report on “Disinformation and Freedom of Opinion and Expression”, which is to be discussed between June 21 and July 9.

  • Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat stated that any attempt to curb information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a strong use of jurisdiction by the Court
  • The SC instructed the registrar to place this order before all district magistrates in the country. It also asked the central and state governments to inform all chief secretaries/director generals of police etc. 
  • The SC supports the principle that abuse of public power cannot irrationally or randomly curb the freedom of speech, press, and media platforms.
  • Human rights provide a powerful framework to contest lies and present alternative viewpoints. It justifies utilitarianism of human rights as freedom of opinion allows development. Journalists are able to contest lies and present alternative viewpoints. 
Findings of the UNHRC report

The UNHRC report talks about “information disorder.” It rises from disinformation which is politically dividing, deters people from importantly exercising their human rights, and destroys their trust in governments and institutions.

  • Firstly, the UNHRC criticized inherently blanket internet shutdowns. The report declares that content moderation efforts will not make any difference.
  • Secondly, the problem is in the varying application of companies’ terms of service. The global platforms do not apply the same policies across all geographical areas or uphold human rights to the same extent.
  • Thirdly, Internet shutdowns don’t curb disinformation but obstruct fact-finding. It is contrary to rights against discrimination when meant to silence minority voices and stopping them to get access to vital information.
  • Fourthly, the report clearly upholds that disinformation risks the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It poses a threat to the safety of journalists and the media ecosystem. 
  • Fifthly, the report stresses that the intention to harm is decisive in disinformation as false information is spread intentionally to cause serious social harm. 
  • Lastly, the report mentions factors contributing to the growth of disinformation. These include,  
    • Factors such as digital transformation and competition from online platforms.
    • State pressure and the absence of robust public information regimes. 
    • Digital and media literacy among the public.
    • Frustrations and grievances of a growing number of people.
    • Decades of economic deprivation, market failures, political disenfranchisement, and social inequalities.
What did the Oxford study find out?
  • A 2020 Oxford study of “Industrialized Disinformation” states that 81 governments use social media to spread propaganda and disinformation about politics. Facebook and Twitter even removed more than 3,17,000 accounts and pages. 
    • However, the cyber troops act as agents of political parties and a tool of geopolitical influence.
    • Some authoritarian countries like Russia, China and Iran benefitted from coronavirus disinformation to increase anti-democratic narratives designed to dent trust in health officials.
  • Cyber troops are available for pro-party propaganda, or post insult campaigns, trolling and producing plots that drive division and polarize citizens. 
  • Online disinformation also results in offline practices of violent social trips on actually existing individuals and communities such as ethnic, gender, migrant, sexual minorities. 

Read Also :-Disinformation issue in Cyber Space

The conclusion
Reactive content moderation efforts are simply inadequate without a serious review of the business model. The report offers useful material for reflective thought and diligent action.

Source: click here

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Traceability Provisions Under the new IT Rules will encroach into User’s Privacy

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Synopsis:

The significant social media intermediaries (including whatsapp) are unhappy with the traceability provision under the new IT rules. This would end the encryption feature on messaging platforms and would undermine users’ privacy. This calls for reconsidering the concerning provisions of new rules.

Background:
  • The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force on 26th May 2021.
  • The social messaging platform (whatsapp) has moved to the Delhi High court against the new rules, especially the traceability provision.
What is Traceability Provision?
  • It requires significant social media intermediaries to identify the first originator of the information on its platform if required by judicial order.
  • A significant social media intermediary is one with more than 50 lakh registered users.
Why does the Government want to invoke traceability provision?
  • It will use the provision as a tool of last resort for special situations. 
    • This includes prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, or punishment of an offense related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, child sexual abuse material, etc.
  • As per the government, such usage would be in line with the Puttaswamy judgment. 
    • The judgment demands that any restriction to the right of privacy must be necessary, proportionate, and should have safeguards against abuse.
Concerns associated with Traceability provision:
  • First, the compliance will require Whatsapp to break its end-to-end encryption service that allows messages to be read-only by the sender and the receiver. Breaking this would simply violate a user’s privacy.
  • Second, the companies are unable to understand the additional requirement of traceability provision. The government can already seek access to encrypted data under Section 69(3) of the IT Act. Further, Rules 17 and 13 of the 2009 Surveillance Rules require intermediaries to assist with decryption:
    • when they have the technical ability to do so and 
    • when a law enforcement agency has no other alternative.
  • Third, the new rules don’t have any independent or judicial oversight. This would allow the government to seek any user’s identity on vague grounds. This could compromise the anonymity of whistle-blowers and journalistic sources.

The Government needs to revisit its position on traceability commitments of intermediaries. It should revise the IT Act, 2000 in line with the international standards and pass the long-pending Data Protection Bill.

Source: The Hindu 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Need to Reform the Information Technology Rules, 2021

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Synopsis: Though, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 has many positives there are some ambiguities that need to be addressed.

What are the positive provisions in the Information Technology Rules, 2021?
  • Positives in the Information Technology Rules, 2021: It mandates duties on social media platforms such as
    • Removal of non-consensual intimate pictures within 24 hours,
    • Publication of compliance reports increasing transparency,
    • Setting up of a dispute resolution mechanism for content removal
    • Adding a label to information for users to know whether the content is advertised, owned, sponsored, or exclusively controlled.
What are the ambiguities in the Information Technology Rules, 2021?
  • First, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 goes against some landmark judicial precedents of the supreme court.
    • For instance, in the case of Life Insurance Corpn. Of India vs Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992), the SC had stated that ‘the freedom to circulate one’s views as the lifeline of any democratic institution’.
    • The Information Technology Rules, 2021 makes the Government the ultimate adjudicator of objectionable speech online. It restricts the citizen’s right to dissent against the government.
  • Second, the act violates the legal principle of colourable legislation, and it is void.
    • For instance, the act was framed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).
    • Although, the Second Schedule of the Business Rules, 1961 does not empower MeiTY to frame regulations for ‘digital media’.
    • The power to legislate on digital media belongs to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • Third, no alternative option for fair recourse by the social media intermediaries.
    • For instance, an intermediary is now supposed to take down content within 36 hours upon receiving orders from the Government.
    • However, in the event of a disagreement with the Government’s order, the Intermediary does not have an option for a fair recourse.
  • Fourth, undermine the right to privacy by imposing a traceability requirement.
    • For instance, a User’s privacy is protected by guaranteeing end-to-end encryption.
    • It does not allow intermediaries to have access to the contents of user’s messages. However, imposing this mandatory requirement of traceability will break this immunity.
    • This will also render all the data from these conversations vulnerable to attack from third parties.
  • Fifth, the rules empower a government authority to classify Fake news. In the event of the authority becoming arbitrary, ill-decisioned, and biased the purpose of eliminating fake news will fail.
  • Sixth, the rules place a barrier on the “marketplace of ideas” and also on the economic market of intermediaries by adding redundant financial burdens.
    • For instance, the Rules requiring intermediaries to have Indian resident nodal officers, compliance officers, and grievance officers. Intermediaries are also required to have offices located in India.

The above-mentioned issues in Information Technology Rules, 2021 need to be addressed. Further, following provisions should be made in place. These include, to ensure citizen’s right to have a private conversation, to engage in a transaction, to dissent, to have an opinion, and to articulate the same without any fear of imprisonment.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Tussle between Government and Social Media companies

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Synopsis:

The new IT rules have initiated a tussle between Government and Social Media companies. The government wants compliance while the companies are hesitant to adopt them on the grounds of privacy and freedom.

Background:
  • The fault lines are hardening between the government and social media companies over the adoption of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
  • WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court to challenge the traceability provisions under the new rules. 
    • As per the platform, implementing such a provision would infringe on the users’ “fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech”.
  • Experts believe that this petition was filed after witnessing inappropriate behavior on the part of the government.
    • The Delhi police had recently visited Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurgaon to serve the platform a notice over its flawed way of identifying “manipulated media”.
Issues in new IT rules:
  • Firstly, the government will be performing a dual role of an appellant and arbitrator. This is against the principle of natural justice as a person can’t be made a judge in his own cause.
  • Secondly, a blanket demand on traceability may allow the government to wield power in an arbitrary manner for purposes that remain opaque. 
    • Further such a demand is unnecessary as the companies have on various occasions complied with the government’s requests on issues pertaining to terror, child abuse, national security, etc. 
    • The provisions of the Indian Penal code are sufficient to ensure companies’ compliance with government requests.
Concerns associated with Social Media Companies:
  • There is not much clarity over the policy adopted by them before taking down content. Despite their professions of faith in openness, the decision-making processes of these platforms are wrapped in secrecy. 
  • Further, they evade their responsibility as per their convenience by invoking the protection granted under Section 79 of the IT Act 2000.
    • It states that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for the following things. They are, any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.

Thus, the judiciary should decide the case in the following manner. It should decide in such a way that targeted access is given to the government. And, subject to due process gets cleared by a neutral arbiter.

Source: indianexpress.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

New IT Rules for Social Media and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force in India. The new IT rules have been framed to address the Social Media, Digital Media, and OTT platforms in a specific manner. The government has released the new IT rules, 2021 in February. The government provided 3 months’ time for Social media platforms to adhere to the rules. That 3-month time period ended on 25th May and the New IT Rules for Social Media came into effect from May 26th.

Though the rules mention social media platforms as an intermediary, some provisions treat them at par with publishers of content. Such as prohibiting unlawful content on the platform, appointing a Chief Compliance Officer, etc. This attracted large criticism from social media companies. Most of the social media giants did not comply with the rules. Further, WhatsApp even filed a case in Delhi High Court contesting the traceability provision.

New IT Rules 2021 for Social Media
  1. Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. This information is “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc”.
  2. 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.
  3. Traceability mechanism: This provision requires the social media platforms to compulsorily identify the first originator of the information in India, upon government or court order.
  4. The IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  5. Social media platforms are classified into two categories
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  6. 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 OfficerNodal 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.
Issues surrounding the New IT Rules 2021 for Social Media
  1. The issues associated with traceability provision in rules: The rules require tracing the information back to the source. This is against some social media policies. For example, WhatsApp claiming their policy as end-to-end encrypted cannot accept new IT rules. If they accept, then their services cannot remain end-to-end encrypted.
    • Against Doctrine of Proportionality: It is a principle where courts examine processes of the administration for reaching or recalling a decision. Proportionality means that the action should not be more drastic than it ought to be for obtaining the desired result.
      • Under this doctrine, there is a question on whether the executive could achieve the goal (i.e. elimination of the threat to security and sovereignty of the nation by social media) by adopting drastic measures such as tracing the messages.
  2. Enhancing political control: Implementation of New IT Rules will increase political control of social media companies and posts in social media. This is because the New IT Rules for social media do not have legal backing. For example, For example, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act provides powers to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). But the new IT rules are framed by bureaucrats there might be wider use of discretionary censorship.
  3. Placing barriers on the marketplace: The new rules increase operational costs for social media companies. As they require to have Indian resident nodal officers, compliance officers, and physical offices in India. This will increase their operational costs significantly. Also, it will hamper the progress of multinational corporations and start-up intermediary enterprises in India.
  4. Revoke protection under Section 79 of IT Act: Non-compliance with new rules will take away the protection granted to social media intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act.
    • This section mentions that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
View of Social media companies

WhatsApp filed a case against the enforcement of New IT rules. During that, WhatsApp contested the following criticisms with the IT Act.

  1. Lack of stakeholder consultation: The rules were notified in a short time without much public and stakeholder consultation. Social media companies like Facebook mention that they are ready to comply with the rules. But prior to that, they need to engage with the Government on certain genuine concerns with the rules. But the government provided no time for that.
  2. Legislative challenges: Neither any Act (including Information Technology Act) nor any other law requires a social media intermediary to reveal the identity of the first originator of a message. Further, the IT Act does not regulate digital media. But, the new IT Rules for social media being subordinate to the IT Act overshoots the original intent and boundaries of the parent Act (IT Act).
  3. Altering the fundamental operation of Social media companies: Under Section 79 (of IT Act) certain conditions attached to maintain the immunity of intermediaries. But the new IT Rules not only alter the provision of intermediary but also alter the entire function of a Social media company as a Publisher. This is against the provisions of the IT Act.
  4. Against Right to privacy: The new rules curtail free speech on digital platforms. The Supreme court in its famous Puttuswamy case judgment mentioned that any law that impacts the fundamental right is void. Further, this iteration was also mentioned in the Anuradha Bhasin case on Internet freedom. Implementing the new IT Rules for social media will violate the judgment and its provisions.
Government argument in support of New IT rules for social media
  1. Social media companies are not legally intermediaries: Legally the social media companies are not considered as an intermediary. Under section 2W of the IT Act, the definition of intermediary does not include Social media companies. This section mentions Intermediaries like internet service providers, online auction sites, online marketplaces, etc. But under the rules, the government mentioned that the social media companies will be treated as an intermediary if they adhere to the new IT rules.
  2. Adherence to Indian laws and regulation: Social media platforms use curated content for money-making and not take any editorial regulation. So far these social media platforms not followed specific Indian guidelines regarding the content on their platforms. The new IT rules aimed to change that perception. From now on the content in social media platforms will follow Indian publishing rules and regulations. Just like the print media is following during their publication.
  3. Benefits end-user: The government underlines that these new IT rules on social media will benefits society at large. Such as,
    • Secure right to privacy: After the rules come into effect, users’ personal photographs, personal data will remain safe with the user.
    • Safety for vulnerable sections: Children and women will now be safe and secure in Social media. The chances of cyber-bullying, exposure to obscene content, and harassment will reduce on social media platforms.
    • Promote the integrity of the nation: If the rules adhered to strictly, then any posts promoting a particular race, sex, caste, religion will reduce in time. This will promote India as a multi-cultural society.
    • Security of state: The social media companies will have to remove any posts that promote radicalism, online terrorism, violence over social media. Thus, it will weaken India’s internal and external threats.
Suggestions
  1. 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).
  2. Providing more time: Five industry bodies, including the CII, FICCI, and the U.S.-India Business Council have sought an extension of 6-12 months for compliance. The government can provide time relaxation for compliance. In the meantime, the government can bring together both the private and industry experts to address genuine concerns.
  3. India did not have General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR like the EU: The government instead of issuing IT rules can enact a data protection law in line with the GDPR. This will address the majority of the issues with the social media platform. Further, it will move a step ahead and force social media platforms to store data within India itself.
Conclusion

The New IT rules for social media alter the entire social media platform’s function, responsibility, compliance, and user rights. But to get the desired outcome the rules alone are not sufficient. It requires legislative backing to regulate social media companies in India. The government can enact a draft bill on the regulation of digital platforms after the due consideration of the upcoming judgment of the Delhi High Court in the WhatsApp case. This will become a watershed moment that will transform the digital ecosystem in India.

 

Posted in 7 PM, PUBLICTagged

Traceability Provision of New IT Rules 2021

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What is the News? The Government of India has referred to the 2019 Supreme Court order to justify the introduction of Traceability Provision in the IT (Information Technology) Rules, 2021.

The Traceability Provision requires the social media platforms to compulsorily identify the first originator of the information in India, upon government or court order.

About the 2019 Supreme Court order:
  • In 2019, the SC was hearing a petition filed by Facebook. SC showed concern at the utilisation of social media for committing crime.
  • The court had said that social media had become a source for activities such as:
    • Pornography
    • Criminals use it to sell weapons, drugs
    • Sharing of hate and violence
    • Some messages on social media may even threaten national sovereignty.
  • Hence, the court had asked to bring a well-framed policy to allow the Government to get information about the first originators of messages. It was to apply to major social media intermediaries with end-to-end encryption technology.
    • End-to-end encryption ensures that no one can read the message, except for the sender and the receiver.
  • However, the court had also said that the Decryption policy should not invade the individual’s Right to Privacy. Hence, the order underlined that traceability should be restricted to “specific circumstances”.
Arguments against the Traceability Provision of IT Rules,2021:
  • Compromises Privacy of Individual: The traceability provision compromises the privacy of each user. Because there is no way to predict which message would be subject to a tracing order from the government.
  • Against Doctrine of Proportionality: The principle says that It is a principle where courts examine processes of the administration for reaching or recalling a decision. Proportionality means that the action should not be more drastic than it ought to be for obtaining the desired result.
    • A court can examine whether the executive could achieve the goal (i.e. elimination of the threat to security and sovereignty of the nation by social media) by adopting less drastic measures.
  • Subordinate Legislation: The 2021 IT Rules is subordinate legislation under the Information Technology Act,2000. But neither the Act nor any other law requires a social media intermediary using end-to-end encryption to reveal the identity of the first originator of a message.
    • However, the subordinate law has overshot the original intent and boundaries of the parent Act.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Miscellaneous, PUBLICTagged

New IT Rules 2021- No protection under the Section 79 of IT Act upon Non compliance

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Synopsis:

The Information Technology Rules, 2021 have now come into force. Social Media companies will lose their protection under Section 79 of the IT Act if they fail to comply with new rules.

Background:

  • The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force on 26th May 2021. 
  • They aim to regulate the flow of information over social media, digital news media, and over-the-top (OTT) content providers.
About the new IT rules:
  • Firstly, It mandates all social media platforms to set up a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism. This includes appointing a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer, and a nodal contact person.
    • Chief Compliance Officer shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
    • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
    • Resident Grievance Officer shall receive and resolve complaints from users. The officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
  • Secondly, the platforms must submit monthly reports on complaints received from users and actions taken. 
  • Thirdly, Further, the platforms providing the feature of instant messaging need to track the first originator of a message.

However, non-compliance with new rules would take away the protection granted to social media intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act.

What is Section 79 of the IT Act?
  • It states that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
  • The protection is available if the intermediary doesn’t:
    • initiate the transmission of the message in question, 
    • select the receiver of the transmitted message 
    • modify any information contained in the transmission
    • tamper with any evidence of the concerned messages
  • Further, the intermediary wouldn’t be granted protection if it does not immediately disable access to the material under question as per the government order.
Genesis of Section 79:
  • The need to provide protection to intermediaries from actions of third parties came into focus following a police case in 2004. 
    • Under this, the chief executive officer of bazee.com and his associates were booked for allowing the auctioning of pornographic material on their website. They were held guilty under Section 85 of the IT Act. 
      • The section says that when a company commits an offense under the IT Act, all its executives should be held liable and proceeded against.
  • However, this decision was overturned by SC in 2012. The court held that the website and its executives could not be held accountable since they were not directly involved in the said transaction. After this, the IT Act was amended to introduce Section 79.
Global norms on safe harbour protection for social media intermediaries:
  • Section 230 of the 1996 U.S Communications Decency Act provides internet companies a safe harbor from content posted by users over them.
    • The section states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”
  • This has enabled companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to become global conglomerates without any fear of litigation.
What’s Next?
  • The prominent platforms including Facebook, Twitter, etc. have still not complied with the new rules. They have not appointed concerned officers nor have submitted the monthly reports to the government. 
  • This means the executives of these social media platforms no longer enjoy the protection of Section 79. They could be held liable for any social media post without any fault on their part.

Source:  indianexpress.com

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

What is “Traceability Provision” of IT rules 2021?

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What is the News? WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court. It is challenging the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 traceability provision of IT rules.

What has WhatsApp challenged in the Delhi High Court?
  • Firstly, WhatsApp has challenged the traceability provision in the Information Technology Rules,2021.
  • Secondly, The traceability provision requires the social media platforms to compulsorily identify the first originator of the information in India upon government or court order.
WhatsApp’s arguments against this traceability provision of IT rules:
  • Firstly, the traceability provision forces WhatsApp to break the end-to-end encryption on its messaging service.
    • End-to-end encryption ensures that no one can read the message, except for the sender and the receiver. This includes WhatsApp itself.
  • Secondly, the clause also infringes upon the fundamental rights to privacy and free speech of hundreds of millions of citizens. As users will not be able to communicate privately and securely.
Government’s clarification on WhatsApp’s traceability provisions of IT rules
  • Firstly, the requirement of tracing the origin of flagged messages under the new IT rules is for prevention and investigation of very serious offenses. Which are threats to the sovereignty of India or public order.
  • Secondly, countries such as the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada also have a similar provision. Which requires social media firms to allow for the legal interception.
  • Thirdly, therefore, WhatsApp’s attempt to portray the IT rules of India as contrary to the right to privacy is misguided.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Miscellaneous, PUBLICTagged

Issues with New IT rules for Social Media

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Synopsis: Instead of non-compliance with the new IT rules for social media, social media companies should engage with the government to address their concerns.

Introduction:

New IT rules of intermediaries will come into effect from today. But, it is expected that most of the global social media giants will not comply with the rules.

About the new IT rules on social media:

The government introduced few stringent rules for social media intermediaries in February. Further, the government provided 3 months’ time for Social media platforms to adhere to the rules. That 3-month time period ended on 25th May. The important provisions of rules are,

  • Firstly, Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. This information is “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
  • Secondly, 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 their content is taken down.
  • Thirdly, New IT rules were introduced in February. Under the new rules, Social media platforms are classified into two categories.
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  • Fourthly, 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 OfficerNodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
Problems with new IT rules on social media:
  1. Lack of public consultation: The rules were notified in a short time without much public consultation.
  2. Against some social media intermediary’s policy: The rules require tracing the information back to the source. This is against some social media’s policy. For example, WhatsApp claiming their policy as end-to-end encrypted cannot accept new IT rules.
  3. Widen the gap: This non-compliance will further widen the relationship gap between social media players and the Government. Further, it will also increase ongoing issues. For example,
  4. Genuine concerns of social media companies are not considered: Social media companies like Facebook mentions that they are ready to comply with the rules. But prior to that, they need to engage with the Government on a few issues. They mention that the genuine concerns on new IT rules are not considered by the government.
Suggestions:
  • Providing more time: Five industry bodies, including the CII, FICCI and the U.S.-India Business Council have sought an extension of 6-12 months for compliance. The government can provide time relaxation for compliance. In the meantime, the government can bring together both the private and industry experts to address genuine concerns.
  • Taking the issue to court: Instead of complete non-compliance, social media companies can fight the new rules in a court of law if they find them problematic.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

New IT Rules,2021 and the issue of non-compliance.

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What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has notified the IT(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 in the Gazette on February 25th,2021.

The Government had asked the significant social media intermediaries to comply with the rules within three months i.e. by 25th May 2021. However, many of these platforms are yet to comply with the new guidelines.

Note: Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users are considered as ‘significant social media intermediaries’.

Key Provisions New IT Rules,2021:
  • Firstly, Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. This information is “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
  • Secondly, 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.
  • Thirdly, the government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  • Fourthly, the IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • Fifthly, social media platforms are classified into two categories
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  • Lastly, 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 OfficerNodal 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.
Possible outcome for non-compliance of New IT Rules,2021
  • The government can take action against companies if they do not comply with the new guidelines by citing Rule 7 of the IT 2021 Rules.
  • Rule 7 states that if any intermediary fails to comply with the guidelines, the provisions of Section 79(1) of the Information Technology Act,2000 shall not apply to such an intermediary.
  • Section 79 of the IT Act provides the ‘safe harbour’ regime status to Social Media Intermediaries. This status provides protection against liability for content posted on their websites by third parties.
  • In other words, the social media platforms will lose their intermediary status. This implies that every user post on these platforms will be considered as posts published by the companies. This will make them criminally liable for any content deemed illegal.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Miscellaneous, PUBLICTagged

Tussle between Government and Social Media Platform

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Synopsis: The Government of India ordered micro-blogging platform Twitter to remove the label of manipulated media from some posts shared by its officials. This included Union Ministers, but this order has no legal foot to stand on.

Background  

It is alleged that the Government of India is willing to empower officials to attack political opponents and misinform the public. The officials spread the ‘toolkit’ prepared by the opposition to vilify the government on Twitter. The opposition has filed a police complaint against the officials stating that the document is fake.

Twitter has also tagged some of the posts in this matter as manipulated. This tag suggests that as per Twitter documents attached were forged or manipulated.

How has Twitter responded to the government’s directive?

The government of India has said that the tag was biased, and a measured attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agencies. Thus, the government ordered Twitter to remove those tags. There are many issues involved in this matter.

  • Firstly, Twitter has not obeyed the Centre’s order.  Six handles of some officials have posts with the tag ‘manipulated media’. The reason behind the order, in the absence of any legal provision to quote, by the Government of India is perplexing.
  • Secondly, Twitter has a public policy that it may label tweets that consist of media that have been misleadingly altered or made-up. It could use its own tools or use third-party services to make that determination. 
  • Thirdly, Twitter is a private unit. Its relationship with users is steered by its terms of services. The IT Act that authorizes the government to control content does not give it the power to order the removal of a label.

The conclusion 

The government’s move raises serious worries about random censorship and transparency. The Centre’s attempt to control any dialogue on its failures will lead to situations that embarrass a democracy. The Centre should discipline its officials into more civility and truthfulness in their engagement with critics.

Source: click here

Posted in 9 PM Daily ArticlesTagged

WhatsApp Privacy Policy Comes into Effect : Issues and Challenges

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Synopsis: Whatsapp’s new privacy policy came into effect from May 15, 2021. Whatsapp suggested users, who do not want to agree with their policy, should discontinue. It also claims that the new privacy policy is relevant to only the business version of the app, which is not satisfying.

Introduction

The senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar reached to the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy that came into effect from May 15, 2021.

WhatsApp defended its privacy policy in its affidavit to the Delhi High Court. It openly named Google, Microsoft, Zoom, Zomato, Republic World, and Public Companies such as Aarogya Setu, Bhim, Air India. It said that these apps have similar policies, depending on collecting user data.

What are the advantages of WhatsApp over other platforms?
  • WhatsApp proposed that users who did not agree to its terms and conditions could stop using the app. Apps such as Signal and Telegram offer alternate dependable communication services.
  • However, researchers working in rural and alienated sections have pointed out the dependence on WhatsApp. It is because of the design of the app and facilities.
  • WhatsApp has an advantage with its messaging and audio-video calling even in low-bandwidth Internet areas. It also offers WhatsApp Pay which allows users to transfer money.
What are the issues with WhatsApp’s stand?

The Competition Commission of India observed that WhatsApp is abusing its dominant position. It seems relevant here due to the following reasons.

  • Firstly, the claim that the new privacy policy is only for the business version of the app is not satisfying. Metadata, from the non-business versions, is already being exchanged with other services of Facebook.
  • Secondly, people using WhatsApp for businesses will expect the services to be more secure than the normal version. Thus, there will be less privacy due to security-related features.
    • Now, less privacy increases the possibility that the exchange of important documents or ideas on the platform will be prone to be leaked. It can be either company or a third party.
    • It is also more likely because due to increasing competition, big companies either acquire or copy the innovative processes.
    • For example, the lessons learned from the United States v. Microsoft Corporation antitrust case from early 2000 would appear relevant in this context.
  • Thirdly, issue of a potential violation of the privacy of children through Ed-Tech apps. It is due to the lack of complete ethics policy and a data privacy law like the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Lastly, the Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 does not even attempt to provide a little protection to users for availing above-mentioned services.
The way forward
  • The data protection Bill needs to be reformulated to make sure that it focuses on user rights with an emphasis on user privacy.
  • A privacy commission should be established to enforce these rights. The government should respect the privacy of the citizens and strengthen the right to information. There is a central need for a strong data protection Bill.

Source: click here

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy and Data Protection law in India

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Synopsis: The government sought a response against WhatsApp’s Privacy policy, but it is just a short-sighted one. The government should focus on long-term solutions like enacting data protection law.

Introduction:

The central government recently issued a notice to WhatsApp to withdraw its updated privacy policy. But this is a clear government intervention into a legitimate business decision.

The development of WhatsApp’s privacy policy:
  • WhatsApp updated its privacy policy earlier this year. Under this policy, WhatsApp can share data (such as location and number) with its parent company Facebook unless they delete their accounts altogether. The App initially proposed a February 8 deadline.
  • This attracted harsh criticisms from the government and experts. Further, there was also an exodus of user migration to rival platforms such as, Signal.
  • WhatsApp moved the deadline to May 15. Eventually, WhatsApp decided not to enforce the policy itself.
Reason behind WhatsApp’s Privacy policy:
  • The App has more than two billion users in the world. Among them, about half a billion are Indians. The privacy policy aims to make business interactions easier. At the same time, the policy aims to create personalised ads on Facebook.
  • In its affidavit in the Delhi High Court, WhatsApp has reportedly said that it is not forcing users to accept the updated privacy policy. As the users have the option to delete their accounts.
The Government response:

Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) has sought a response from WhatsApp within seven days. Due to the following reasons,

  • The MEITY thought that the Privacy policy is discriminating against Indian users as Indians depend on WhatsApp for communication.
  • The ministry is also of the opinion that WhatsApp is imposing unfair terms and conditions. As the similar policy is not applicable for WhatsApp’s European users.
Concerns with government decision:
  • It is a business decision: The privacy policy reflects WhatsApp’s strong business decision. The users can avoid accepting the policy and delete their accounts. Even WhatsApp is ready to take the risk of user migrations to other Apps. This is also reflected in the WhatsApp affidavit.
  • WhatsApp is not the only one: Private apps such as Google, BigBasket, Koo, and public apps such as Aarogya Setu, Bhim, IRCTC, and others also use similar privacy policies.
  • India did not have General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR like the EU: The government instead of seeking a response from companies has to enact a data protection law in line with the GDPR.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Need for a robust Personal Data Protection Bill

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Synopsis: Some concerns in the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 needs to be addressed to make it more effective.

Background
  • After the Pandemic, many people are participating in the digital economy. For example, online purchase of groceries, telemedicine, e-education, etc.,
  • During the same period, the number of personal data breaches from major digital service providers has increased. For example, The recent alleged data breach at MobiKwik (data of 9.9 crore users at risk).
  • Hence, robust data protection regulations are necessary to prevent such events and the existing data protection regulations in India have become inadequate.
  • The K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India case, established the right to privacy as a fundamental right. Thus, a more robust data protection legislation is desirable.
  • Currently, a revised version of The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, is under scrutiny by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. It can provide adequate protection to users and their personal data.
What are the issues in the existing data protection regulations?

In India, at present, data protection is governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000, and various other sectoral regulations. However, they are inadequate because of the following reasons,

  1. First, by obtaining users’ consent to processing personal data, entities are able to override the data protection rules.
    • This is problematic because users might not understand the terms and conditions or the implications of giving consent.
  2. Second, the current framework while emphasizes data security it does not give importance to data privacy. For example, the provision on users’ preferences on how his personal data can be processed is unclear. As a result, entities could use the data for purposes different to those that the user consented to.
  3. Third, the data protection provisions under the IT Act does not apply to government agencies. This limits the efficacy of data protection framework since governments are collecting and processing large amounts of personal data.
  4. Fourth, the current regime has become inadequate in addressing risks emerging from new developments in data processing technology.

How the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 can be more effective than the current regulations in place?

  1. First, the Bill seeks to apply the data protection regime to both government and private entities across all sectors.
  2. Second, the Bill emphasizes data security and data privacy equally. For example, to protect personal data the entities will have to maintain security safeguards. Similarly, to protect the data privacy of its users, the entities will have to fulfill a set of data protection obligations and transparency and accountability measures that govern how entities can process personal data.
  3. Third, the Bill gives users a set of rights over their personal data and means to exercise those rights. For instance, a user will be able to obtain information about the different kinds of personal data that an entity has about them and how the entity is processing that data.
  4. Fourth, the Bill seeks to create an independent regulator known as the Data Protection Authority (DPA) to monitor and regulate data processing activities. The DPA will grievance redressal authority when entities do not comply with their obligations under the regime.
Concerns regarding Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019

However, there are few concerns regarding the draft bill that needs to be addressed.

  1. One, it gives wide exemptions to government agencies, and thereby it dilutes user protection safeguards.
    • For example, under clause 35, the Central government can exempt any government agency from complying with the Bill. This allows Government agencies to process personal data without following any safeguard under the Bill. This could create severe privacy risks for users.
  2. Two, enforcement of various user protection safeguards such as rights and remedies could be difficult for users. For instance, the Bill threatens legal consequences for users who withdraw their consent for a data processing activity. In practice, this could discourage users from withdrawing consent for processing activities that they want to opt-out.

The above-mentioned concerns should be addressed to bring a stronger and more effective data protection regime in India.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Flaws in new IT Rules 2021

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Synopsis: The IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) new IT Rules 2021, will result in systematic incremental loss of the freedom of speech and expression.

Introduction 

The final notification of the rules will depend on the decisions of the two petitions filed against it in Kerala and Delhi. 

  • The main motive of this new set of rules is to put in place a grievance redressal mechanism. It will involve the consumer of social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital news web portals.
  • The smaller or medium-sized independent digital news portals will be most affected by this redress requirement. They are already struggling to survive. 
What are the issues in this notification?

The worrying aspect of this move is to control the digital media which are more defiant than the mainstream media.

  1. Firstly, the notification gives the government ad hoc emergency powers to block any content. It would include the content that the government considers problematic even without the symbolic procedure.
  2. Secondly, regulation by the government. The rules have made a mockery of self-regulation by giving the power of regulation to a committee set up by the government. They can regulate the content on the basis of a real or imagined grievance. 
  3. Thirdly, this measure poses a financial threat as monetization opportunities become limited. Investors and brands get scared because of political considerations interrupting business interests and an unusual media policy regime in constant change.
  4. Fourthly, it is eroding pillars of democracy. It is important to realize that the fourth pillar i.e. media is as important as the other three pillars, i.e. the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. A healthy tension among the four pillars keeps the democratic structure strong and vibrant.
  5. Fifthly, it affects free speech and expression. The freedom of the press, although not prescribed as a fundamental right directly, is a derivative from Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g). These articles have given every citizen the right to free speech and expression. 

There is also a question that why the government is curbing press freedom when there are more stringent laws such as Sedition law and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA. 

Conclusion 

This argumentative notification takes it an absurd step further. A deliberate measure of government regulation of the news media is required to be passed off as self-regulation by that same news media. 

Source: click here

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

The Issue of Programme Code for Media outlets

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Synopsis – Karnataka High Court directs media outlets to stick to Programme Code.

Introduction

  1. Karnataka minister resigned after media aired footage that allegedly featured him and an unidentified woman.
  2. There has been speculation about the prospect of more such CDs that could be aired.
  3. Following that, PIL filed by Jarkiholi’s lawyer. It seeks to take steps to safeguard the right to privacy of individuals and ensure that media do not breach the law by invading the privacy of individuals.
  4. Karnataka HC directs media houses to follow the Programme code defined under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act. It restrained around 70 media organization from broadcasting or publishing contents of a CD.

However, the order of restraining media might become a tool of harassment.

What are the concerns and provisions about the Programme Code?

Concerns-
  • The code contains an elaborate list for a media organization. It says that no programme should be aired that contains
        • Anything offensive for the sovereignty and integrity of India.
        • Criticism of friendly relations of India with any foreign state.
        • Obscene, defamatory, false, and suggests innuendos and half-truths.
  • DMs, SDMs and police commissioners are the authorized officers to ensure that the Programme Code is not breached.
  • It contains defamation, half-truths and innuendo as the potential violations.
Penalties under the code-

If any media governed under the CTN Act violates the provisions and the Programme Code, the code prescribes;

  • Imprisonment up to two years or fine up to ₹1,000 or both for the first offence or
  • Imprisonment up to five years and with a fine of up to ₹5,000
What are the challenges in this case?
  • No complained filed by the victim- It is not possible to show any misconduct in the absence of a complaint from the victim, or even information about her.
  • Invasion of Privacy – An invasion of someone’s privacy or a disrespectful representation of women cannot be justified in the name of the public good.

Source- The Hindu

 

[Answered] Distinguish between “Code of ethics” and “Code of conduct” with suitable examples.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Flaws in New IT rules 2021

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Synopsis: The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) New IT Rules 2021 suffers from numerous flaws. Due to this, experts have questioned their efficacy and legality. 

Background:
  • The online streaming industry has grown multifold in recent years and has made a unique space of itself vis-a-vis cinema and television.
  • However, the intended government regulation under new IT rules 2021 deters the creative freedom of industry. It is a grave concern at a time when the industry is already facing multiple challenges.
Challenges prior to new regulation:
  • Multiple court petitions have been filed against online streaming platforms due to inappropriate content. The concern generally pertains to religious sentiments or the display of obscene sexual content. The result is restrictions on artistic expression and viewer choice.
  • In some cases, FIRs lodged directly against the artists or company employees of platforms like Netflix and Amazon. This causes substantial harassment and undermines the personal liberty of content creators.
Flaws in new IT rules:
  • Inconsistency with Parent Act (Section 69A of IT Act): Powers under Section 69A can be exercised in the interest of “sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State etc. grounds. 
    • However, a ground of decency and morality is not mentioned under the section. But rules allow the government to regulate platforms on such ground.
    • Similarly, Section empowers the central government to direct “any agency of the Government or intermediary” to block access to online content. However, online video streaming platforms do not fall into either of these two categories but still are covered under the new rules.
    • The Section allows the government to block access of any information to the public generated or transmitted on a computer. Nonetheless, rules give greater power of demanding an apology or re-classifying the content that breeds subtle censorship.
  • Lack of Independent Regulation: The proposed three-tier regulatory framework falls short of independent functioning. 
    • For instance, the Inter-Departmental committee which makes the 3rd tier will be mainly formed by bureaucracy. Further, there is no compulsory judicial/civil society representation at this level.
    • Similarly, the review committee constituted under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 for examining the government order, comprises only government officials. 
Way Forward:
  • The government should release a white paper stating the intended objectives to be achieved by regulating online streaming platforms. Prior to this, a meaningful public consultation involving all the concerned stakeholders should be done.
  • Further, if stringent regulation is desired, then it must be done through the legislative branch. As executive rule-making power under Section 69A never contemplated the creation of such an elaborate regulatory framework.

Source: indianexpress

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Why Criticisms of New IT Rules 2021 are illogical?

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Synopsis: The new IT rules 2021, are not discretionary or arbitrary. These rules are aimed towards creating a level playing field.

Introduction:

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.

Few important provisions of new IT rules 2021:

The major provisions of the new IT rules are,

  • Self-Classification of Content: The OTT(Over the top) platforms would self-classify the content into five age-based categories i.e. U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Three-tier grievance redressal framework: Both the digital news publishers and OTT platforms have to establish and follow the three-tier grievance redressal framework.

What are the general criticisms against new IT rules 2021? 

The new IT rules are criticised by various private sectors. These private players mention the new IT rules as discretionary and against freedom of expression. They all point out criticisms like,

  1. 5 Stage content classification on OTT platforms is arbitrary
  2. Government influence in 3-tier Grievance redressal mechanism
  3. The new IT rules were not consulted with OTT platforms
  4. Government right to ban any content on OTT platforms
  5. Furnishing basic information of a user violates privacy
Counter-arguments against the criticisms of new IT rules 2021:

All these steps are aimed to create a level playing field between offline and online media. But there are few criticisms against the new IT rules in 2021. But these criticisms are meaningless.

  1. 5 Stage content classification on OTT platforms: This is for the first time in independent India, the policy is shifted from pre-certification(censorship) to self-classification. This is a more transparent system compare to censorship. Even many countries are not following the same. For example,
    • The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore: All the service providers are required to obtain a license from IMDA for operation. Further, all content must be rated according to the Film Classification Guidelines there.
    • Recently the UK Government released a white paper on the threats posed by unregulated online content. The paper proposed few important points such as,
      • Creating a new independent regulator to ensure online safety,
      • Develop codes of practice,
      • Impose liabilities/fines on companies for the violation, etc.
        So the 5 stage content classification is much in line with the international practice.
  2. Government influence in 3-tier Grievance redressal mechanism: This is completely a wrong criticism. Tier 1 and tier 2 of the self-regulatory body are to be formed by the OTT platforms themselves, not by the government.
  3. Lack of consultation with OTT platforms: The government consulted the private sector on various occasions. Such as,
    • Earlier, the I&B ministry organised consultations in Mumbai and in Chennai with the OTT platforms in November.
    • The I&B minister himself met representatives of OTT platforms in March.
  4. Government right to ban the content: This is not a new provision in India. Under the Information Technology Rules, 2009, the government uses the same provision to ban the content. Further, these provisions are aimed at National Security to protect its national interests in digital platforms.
  5. Furnishing basic information of a user violates privacy: This is not a violation of privacy. Instead, it is transparency. The private players always advocating transparency from the government, but they themselves don’t want to be transparent.

So, the new IT rules 2021 not provide discretionary powers to the government. Instead, the new IT rules are progressive and creating a level playing ground for digital entities.


Clarification on IT Rules, 2021 for OTT Platforms

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Supreme Court on “IT Rules 2021” to regulate OTT platforms

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What is the News?

The Supreme Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the new IT rules 2021 to regulate content on Over the Top(OTT) platforms.

What was the case?

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by Amazon Prime’s Commercial Head. The plea is challenging the Allahabad High Court Judgment denying her pre-arrest bail in the criminal cases registered in connection with the web series “Tandav”.

What were the observations made by the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court has said that the Government’s Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 to regulate the OTT (over-the-top) platforms has several problems such as:

Read more: IT rules 2021

  • The rules are more in the nature of guidelines.
  • There is no effective mechanism for the screening of the content shown by OTTs.
  • The rules also do not have enough powers to punish the violators.

What did the Government say?

  • The Government has agreed to consider drafting new regulations or even legislate a law to address the concerns raised by the court about OTT platforms.

Source: The Hindu

Clarification on IT Rules, 2021 for OTT Platforms

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

Clarification on IT Rules, 2021 for OTT Platforms

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What is the News?

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting clarifies certain aspects of IT Rules, 2021 for OTT platforms. It clarified that there will be no government nominee in the self-regulatory body.

What is the issue?

The Central government notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. These rules broadly deal with social media and over-the-top(OTT) platforms.

What is the Ministry’s clarification?

  • The over-the-top(OTT) platforms will not have to get themselves registered with the government.
  • There will be no government-appointed member in the self-regulatory body that will address complaints.

Rules for OTT Platforms:

  • Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms would self-classify the content into five age-based categories i.e. U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Parental Lock: Platforms would implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher. A reliable age verification mechanism for content classified as “A” is required.

Read moreIT Rules 2021 for OTT and Social Media

3- Tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism

  • Grievance Cell: The publisher has to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India. The officer shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. He shall take a decision on every grievance it receives within 15 days.
  • Self Regulatory Body: There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person. It will not have more than six members.
    • This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
  • Oversight Mechanism by Government: An Inter-ministerial panel will be set up. It will look into the complaints if they are not resolved at the first two levels.

Source: The Hindu

 

Posted in acts, bills and regulations, Daily Factly articles, Factly: Polity and Nation, PUBLICTagged

Critical Analysis of New IT Rules 2021

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Synopsis: Government released new ‘IT (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’. There are many flaws in these rules that require urgent attention.

Background

  • Recently the centre introduced the ‘Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) new IT Rules 2021 to regulate all types of digital platforms.
  • For framing the new rules, the government has referred to the 2018 Prajjawala case. Where the supreme court had observed that the Government of India may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
  • The new rules force digital news publishers and video streaming services to adhere to a three-tier structure of regulation. It will have a government committee at its apex.
  • It is feared that the new rules will have implications for freedom of expression and the right to information.

What are the issues in the new IT rules 2021?

  • First, the new rules have increased the censorship of Internet content. Moreover, it mandates compliance with government demands regarding user data collection and policing of online services in India.
      • Rules are framed in the absence of open and public discussion and without any parliamentary study and scrutiny.
  • Second, the new rules issued under the Information Technology Act appears to be unconstitutional. Instead of taking a legislative route, it was done by expanding the purview of the IT Act, 2000.
  • Third, the ability to frame subordinate legislation is by its nature a limited, constrained power. An executive cannot use its rule-making power to issue primary legislation by itself.
      • But, the government by enacting new Information Technology rules 2021 has increased the scope of subordinate legislation.
  • Fourth, the new rules will also regulate digital news media, it is a prime source of news. Any government involvement could have a chilling effect on their free speech and conversations.
  • Fifth, according to the new rules, any person having a grievance regarding the content in relation to the Code of Ethics can file his grievance.
      • Literally, it will force a digital platform to take up any issue by anyone. This opens the floodgates for all kinds of interventions considering the fact that many digital news platforms are small entities.
  • Sixth, the new rules have increased the compliance burden for social media platforms. For instance,
      • Big platforms such as WhatsApp will have to appoint chief compliance officers. He/she will ensure the rules and the laws are followed. A nodal officer will also need to be appointed, for coordinating with the law enforcement agencies.
  • Seventh, the new rules mandate the retention of user data by intermediaries for use by government agencies.
      • The rules require messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal to trace the origin of the problematic messages based on a judicial order.
      • It raises uncertainty about adherence to such orders, as their messages are encrypted end-to-end.
  • Eighth, the new rules provide for the registration of digital news sites with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Further, OTT platforms are required to agree to a government-supervised “self-regulatory system”.
      • However, under the IT Act, digital news service is not required to register. Similarly,  streaming video content has not been included under the ambit of the Cinematograph Act.

What is the way forward?

  • Given the new challenges in digital content, some strict policy measures are needed. However, the centre decision to involve in the grievance redressal process as an apex body cannot solve these problems.
  • Also, over-regulation will prove counterproductive in a country where the citizens still do not have a data privacy law.
  • So, what is needed is the uniform application of laws to combat unlawful content that is already in place.

New social media rules – an analysis

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Why New IT Rules, 2021 for Social Media were necessary?

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Synopsis: Government has released new IT rules 2021 for Social media. This article talks about the need for these rules.

Background:

  • Recently, The Indian government has announced a number of rules to curb the misuse of social media.

Read More about New Rules: New IT Rules for Social Media and OTT platforms – Explained Pointwise – ForumIAS Blog

Why Big Tech needs to be regulated?

  • First, Big techs have grown out of proportion. They have access to billions of dollars as well as the power to control three important resources in modern times. Data, Attention and the popular narrative.
  • The following incidents will better explain the power these big companies wield in modern times.
      • Twitter’s noncompliance to obey orders from a sovereign country like India.
      • Donald Trump, de-platformed from Twitter and Facebook
  • Second, Self-regulation measures taken by the Big Techs to control misinformation in the infodemic era have been ad hoc, inconsistent and reactive.
  • Third, Offensive speech in social media has commercial gains for Big techs. Because this content goes viral è attracts more users more data è More advertising revenue.
  • Fourth, in democratic societies states are the guardians of the public interest. So, curtailing speech or permitting it, is the role of states, not the Big techs.
      • Also, the tech industry is itself deeply flawed. There is a lack of sufficient choice of platforms and there are asymmetries in power between the companies and users. Big Tech is amassing data on the citizens and using this information for its own purposes.
  • Fifth, the power of Big techs is more compared to states. It gives them better bargaining power to enforce their profit motives over national interests. For example, recently, Google and Facebook threatened to de-platform Australia.

What are the counterarguments from Big techs?

  • First, the Big techs contend that they have developed better processes to regulate offensive speech content. So, they feel that the government’s involvement is not necessary.
  • Second, even democratically elected governments are far from perfect. So, they do not have the legitimacy to regulate free speech.
      • For instance, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, both India (ranked 53rd) and the US (ranked 25th) are “flawed democracies”.
      • Also, governments might enforce rules in their personal interest to cut-off dissents against the government.
      • This leads to the opinion that well-functioning markets are superior to flawed democracies in optimizing social welfare.

 

Regulating tech giants in India- Explained

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

New IT Rules for Social Media and OTT platforms – Explained Pointwise

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Introduction

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,

  1. 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 79Section 79 states that an intermediary (Digital media and OTTs) shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication
  2. 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. 
  3. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  4. The IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  5. Social media platforms are classified into two categories
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  6. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The new IT rules will lead to the empowerment of citizens. Since there is a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievances.
  4. 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.
  5. Giving due notice before removing content will prevent arbitrary removal of content. 
  6. The imposition of print and electronic code of conduct on digital news media would ensure a level playing field for every media.
  7. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. As the new rules curtail free speech on digital platforms, there will be a sense of fear among the users.
  4. 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
  5. 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. 

Posted in 7 PM, acts, bills and regulations, PUBLICTagged ,

New Social Media Code – A much-needed one for India

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Synopsis: The new Social media code is much-needed to ensure the online platforms are subject to law of the land

Introduction:

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.

Few salient provisions in the New Social Media Code:

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3.  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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Conclusion:

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.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

New social media rules – an analysis

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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 moreSocial 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.

Conclusion:

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.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Govt announces new social media rules to curb its misuse

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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:

  1. Chief Compliance Officer, who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
  2. Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
  3. 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

New social media rules – an analysis

 

Posted in acts, bills and regulations, Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Miscellaneous, PUBLICTagged

Delhi Court’s ruling on Disha Ravi Toolkit case

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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.

Introduction-

  • 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.

 

Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020

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A tussle between Australia and Facebook over News Charges

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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.

Background

  • 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.

Regulating tech giants in India- Explained

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Need to regulate Big techs in India

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Synopsis: The Indian government is planning to announce important regulations on big techs Internet-related technology companies. 

Introduction 

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 

  1. Big tech companies acquire monopoly power in their operations. This leaves no scope for free and fair competition. 
  2. The algorithms used by the big-techs were opaque and not subject to accountability.
  3. These big tech companies became the symbol of inequality. They acquired more economic and political power.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

Suggestions:

  • 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.

 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Government’s Notice to Twitter: Why Twitter’s actions are justified?

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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.

Introduction 

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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

Way forward

  • 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.
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Climate activist arrested in ‘Toolkit Conspiracy’

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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.   

Read More – Toolkit conspiracy case and its imapct on India- Explained Pointwise – ForumIAS Blog 

Background: 

  • 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. 

Way Forward: 

  • 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. 
Posted in 9 PM Daily ArticlesTagged ,

Toolkit conspiracy case and its imapct on India- Explained Pointwise

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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?

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Why government actions on activists are justified?
  1. 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.
  2. The laws were enacted to prevent the individual/organisation from indulging in contempt of government. This is essential for the smooth functioning of democracy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Further read Criminalisation of government criticisms

Challenges faced by the government in arresting activists:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Global Human Rights Watch also mentions arrests on activists as a violation of Human Rights.
  5. It is also seen as a burden to Indian Judiciary and reducing the accountability of the police for their abuses.
  6. It can also create an image among supporters like they are free to commit abuses against communities who are in minority.

Suggestions:

  1. 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.
  2. The government has to train Law enforcement authorities to prevent the problem of misuse.
  3. 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.

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Need of reforming the blocking powers of Government

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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.

Background:

  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
    1. First, the government can issue restricting orders without any evidence. It undermines the Fundamental Right to free speech.
    2. 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. 
    3. 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. 
    4. 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.

Way Forward:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Self-regulatory codes 2020 for OTTs should be allowed

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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.

Read – Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020 – ForumIAS Blog

Background

  • 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.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

What are the issues in government’s order to Twitter?

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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.

Introduction

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Thirdly, several state governments are refusing to publish orders on internet shutdowns even after RTI is filed. 
  4. 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.

Conclusion 

  • 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.

 https://blog.forumias.com/polity/constitutional-bodies/

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Disinformation issue in Cyber Space: Issues and Way forward

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. Similarly, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign floods disinformation to an extent that people start to deny the truth.
  3. 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.

Way forward

  • 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.
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020

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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.

Implementation Toolkit:

  • 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

 

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Privacy Issues in government backed Apps

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Source- The Hindu

SyllabusGS 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.

Background-

  • Recently, WhatsApp has rollbacked their privacy policy after facing a huge backlash from users. Many users started switching to competitor apps such as Signal and Telegram.
  • 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.

Way forward-

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.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Centre’s Powers under “Section 69A of IT Act”

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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.

Government’s response:

  • 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

Posted in acts, bills and regulations, Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Miscellaneous, PUBLICTagged ,

Issues of restricting free speech in name of fake news

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Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS

Synopsis: MHA has recommended criminalizing the spread of misleading news about vaccines. This step would have many repercussions.

Introduction

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

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

Conclusion 

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. 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Regulating tech giants in India- Explained

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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.

Second, there is a lack of transparency in the way tech companies process user data. This has raised serious privacy concerns and also created anti-trust investigations by various governments. The Cambridge Analytica scandal of Facebook is one such example. The recent WhatsApp privacy policy also created widespread concern.

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.

Posted in 7 PM, PUBLICTagged ,

Internet shutdowns in India: impacts and way forward

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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.

Background:

  1. 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.
  2. The Rules empowers the central and state governments to suspend internet services during public emergencies or for protecting the public interest.
  3. 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.
  4. For instance, after the abrogation of Article 370, J&K witnessed the longest Internet shutdown across the world.
  5. Most recently, Internet services were shut down in Delhi NCR following the violence that erupted during the Farmers protest on Republic day.
  6. 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.

  1. First, Lack of internet connectivity or digital illiteracy will force many citizens to be excluded from social and economic systems.
  2. Second, Blanket bans on digital connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis will widen digital inequalities.
  3. 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.
  4. Fourth, it denies access to learning for students as most of the classes are shifting online to maintain physical distancing norms.
  5. 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.
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Twitter might face penal action under IT Act

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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.

Background

  • 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.

Way forward

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.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Ways to control Monopolistic tendencies of Internet Giants

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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.

Introduction-

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-

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  • Forth, to use the power of public voice. For example- WhatsApp has delayed the rollout of its updated privacy policy after facing a huge backlash of tens of millions of its customers.

Way forward-

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.

Source- The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, CURRENT AFFAIRS, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged ,

Stopping hate on TV is essential to prevent riots: SC

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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

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WhatsApp Privacy Policy Issue: Need for Personal Data Protection Law

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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?

  • Recently, WhatsApp updated its terms of service (ToS) and privacy policy for users. It permits WhatsApp to share users’ data with Facebook and its companies with their consent.
  • 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.
  • Fourth, it is a cause of concern because WhatsApp’s growth was mainly due to its virtue of protecting user privacy through end-to-end encryption. But, with the change in the privacy policy on users, they are breaking away from their core virtue.

 

Principle Of Purpose Limitation

    1. A specific and legitimate reason is needed for the collection of any personal data.
    2. Personal data can only be used for the specified reasons
    3. Exceptions could be made if further processing is for any of the following purposes:
      • archiving in the public interest
      • scientific or historical research
      • statistical reasons.
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. 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

 Privacy and surveillance 

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Synopsis: Issue of WhatsApp privacy policy has again raised the concern of data privacy in India. What are the options available with the government to handle this issue? 

Introduction  

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.  

Way forward 

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. 

Posted in 9 PM Daily ArticlesTagged ,

Issue of Big Tech’s increasing power 

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  • 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.  
Posted in 9 PM Daily ArticlesTagged

 India asks WhatsApp to revoke changes in its privacy policy 

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Why in News?  

The Union government has asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes to its privacy policy. 

 Facts: 

 Questions Posed by Government to WhatsApp: 

Government to WhatsApp

 Source: Business Standard 

 Key Concerns over WhatsApp Privacy Policy: 

    • Privacy of Citizens: The policy should be reconsidered to respect the informational privacy, freedom of choice and data security of Indian citizens. 
    • Differential Policies: The privacy policy for European users specifically prohibits the use of any information shared with Facebook. This clause is not present in the privacy policy offered to Indian users. 
    • 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. 

 Further Reading on WhatsApp Privacy Policy: http://bit.ly/38Ww0jk

Article Source

Posted in Daily Factly articles, PUBLICTagged , ,

Need for social media Policies on hate and incitement

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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.

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.

Way Forward

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.

 

 

 

Posted in 9 PM Daily ArticlesTagged

WhatsApp Privacy policy Issue and Data protection in India

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Context:

The recent WhatsApp privacy policy attracted widespread criticism among various sections of society for its latest privacy policy. Due to severe protests, WhatsApp has issued clarification related to its policy. But there is a wider concern about data protection in India.

Click here to read about the new Whatsapp privacy policy

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.
What is the Privacy Policy in EU?
    • 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.
    • While in the EU also, WhatsApp privacy policy talks about sharing information with Facebook, but users have an additional right “Managing and Retaining Your Information”.
    • 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.

Click here to read about the challenges of Personal Data Protection Bill.

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.
Way forward:

Justice BN Srikrishna committee report talks about three approaches to data protection and a draft data protection bill.

    1. The US model of laissez-faire approach: The USA does not have an overarching data protection framework.
    2. European Model of GDPR: Provides control of personal data in the hands of the data generators (Users)
    3. China’s model of protecting National interests: China created a national law in 2017 which contains top-level principles for handling personal data.

Though WhatsApp’s privacy policy is relaxed to some extent it is not perfect. This might be the first of many such privacy guidelines by the companies operating in India. The solution lies in the faster enactment of the Personal Data Protection Bill and the successful implementation of the Act. It is high time the government should enact the same.

 

 

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What is new in WhatsApp’s privacy policy?

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News: WhatsApp has updated its terms of service and privacy policy on Wednesday for users in India.Users have till February 8,2021 to accept these in order to continue using the platform.

Facts:

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.

Article Source

 

 

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India’s digital strike

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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?
  1. Defence and security concern– These apps are involved in activities against India’s sovereignty, integrity, defense, security and law and order.
  2. 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.

Benefits- 

  1. 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.
  1. 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-

  1. This can trigger an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm.
  2. 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.

Global governance

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Social and Digital media regulations in India | 24th November

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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.

  1. Films and Audio Visual programmes made available by online content providers
  2. 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.

Solutions:
  • 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.
Way forward:

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).

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A digital sisterhood

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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.

Way forward

  • 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.
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importance of freedom of press in india

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Context: The arrest of television anchor and editor-in-chief of Republic Television Arnab Goswami for alleged abetment to suicide.

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.

 

 


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Social Media and hate speech

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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.
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Issue of Hate speech in India

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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:

  1. The extremity of the speech.
  2. Incitement
  3. Status of the author of the speech.
  4. Status of victims of the speech.
  5. Potentiality of the speech.
  6. 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

  1. 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.

Bezbaruah Committee

  • 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.
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