The nonprofit that funds Wikipedia has said its model would be “severely disrupted” by the intermediary guidelines that India intends to institute by the middle of next month.
Automated filtering and quick takedown requirements would disrupt the volunteer model of real-time editing of information followed by the online encyclopaedia, the Wikimedia Foundation has said in a letter to Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Because the resource is curated by language and not geographic market, the rules would change the entire website, not just Indians’ access to the knowledge, the Foundation said.
The “collaborative system of people would be severely disrupted by obligatory filtering systems that monitor for and automatically remove illegal content across the website. Short response times for removals that would essentially require the use of automatic systems would interfere with people’s ability to collaborate in real time on Wiki, the collaborative, open editing model that has been crucial to Wikipedia’s growth,” the letter said.
“It is impossible to restrict changes inside a Wikipedia article from being visible in one country and not another. Fulfilling mandatory content removal requirements from one country would leave problematic gaps in Wikipedia for the whole world, break apart highly context-specific encyclopedic articles, and prevent people from accessing information that may be legal in their country.”
Wikipedia is very popular in India. Users in the country visited the encyclopedia 771 million times last month, the fifth highest in the world, the letter said. It urged the Minister to release the latest draft of the guidelines, and suggested a layered definition to social media intermediaries similar to The Personal Data Protection Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha earlier this month. The letter also expressed concern over the “unrealistic burden” on nonprofits, and said that traceability requirements were a “serious threat to freedom of expression”.
The Indian Express reported the proposed draft guidelines in December 2018. After the Ministry opened them up for public consultation, Wikipedia joined several stakeholders who took issue with a number of provisions: censorship concerns highlighted the rule that would require platforms to “proactively” eliminate “unlawful” content, while surveillance concerns focused on the proposed guideline that intermediaries must hand over certain information to the government.
When the draft law was released, WhatsApp had said that, if notified, they would require a complete re-design of the platform, threatening its signature encryption. An major concern for the company was the provision on supplying the government with the “originator of information”. In an ongoing case in the Supreme Court involving WhatsApp and Facebook, the IT Ministry has submitted that it will update these laws by January 15.