With rising concerns over privacy and free speech pertaining to the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018, to govern social media platforms in the country, senior officials the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will meet legal experts and privacy advocates on Saturday to discuss various issues “relating to making social media safer”, a senior government source said on condition of anonymity.
Last week, the IT ministry announced that it would hold public consultations on the draft rules that it announced on December 24, and are meant to replace the rules notified back in 2011.
It said that the consultation process started with inter-ministerial discussions, followed by talks with major social media companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and WhatsApp, apart from associations representing intermediaries.
The Union Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) announced Monday that it will hold public consultations on the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that the government’s proposed amendments to rules under Section 79 of the IT Act make it mandatory for online platforms to “proactively” deploy technology to enable access to content seen as “unlawful”.
And that the measures proposed include breaking end-to-end encryption so that the origin of messages can be traced.
The government had clarified saying that “instances of misuse of social media by criminals and anti-national elements have brought new challenges” for law enforcement agencies, including “inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, incitement of violence, public order, fake news, etc”.
It also referred to incidents of lynchings reported in 2018 “mostly alleged to be because of fake news/ rumours being circulated through WhatsApp and other social media sites”.
The social media platforms, the government said, “are required to follow due diligence” under Section 79 of the IT Act.
They have to “ensure that their platforms are not used to commit and provoke terrorism, extremism, violence and crime”.
Section 79, it said, “elaborates on the exemption from liabilities of intermediaries in certain cases”, including that the “intermediaries must observe due diligence while discharging their duties, and also observe such other guidelines as prescribed” by the government.
The government’s decision to bring amendments had been slammed by the Opposition which had termed the move as one that would violate privacy of individuals, and claimed that the government has become a “Peeping Tom” and that “violating the privacy of people has become the norm”.
The meeting with legal experts on January 5 will be followed by a one-hour Twitter session that would be open to the larger public for discussion on the matter, the official cited above said.