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New Social Media Rules: India’s new social media rules are echoing around the world

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New Delhi:
India’s new social media rules announced last week could, according to experts, be emulated by other countries like the US, UK and Australia.

These countries have pushed social networks to take responsibility for the content on their platforms, apart from more stringent data processing practices. Some experts said the rules violate freedom of expression and privacy.

India is one of the top three internet markets with nearly 700 million users and its digital policies are being closely followed. According to internet and legal experts, if companies in India join government dictates, they cannot refuse to do so elsewhere. India’s ban on the Chinese short video app TikTok was cited in the US executive order, which seeks a similar stop for the company owned by Bytedance. In the past, India’s demand for traceability had resonated in countries such as the US, UK and Australia.

The new liability rules for intermediaries oblige social media companies with over 5 million users in India not only to provide traceability of end-to-end encrypted messages, but also to set up local offices with high-ranking officials to deal with law enforcement agencies and user complaints to deal with.

They also need to change their user interface to clearly differentiate verified users from others, aside from setting up automated content filtering tools and notifying users with explanations when their accounts have been banned.

The new rules are part of a global shift following the New Zealand mass shooting, streamed live by the shooter on Facebook, and a U.S. executive order to reconsider a law giving social media platforms absolute immunity, Pavan Duggal said Chief attorney and cyber expert.

“The Indian rules act as a corollary of the event that is taking place around the world,” he said. “It is the first concrete step of a great nation to have a firm policy for mediators and their liabilities.”

Australia, which is pushing companies like Google and Facebook to share revenue with news publishers, and the UK and European Union will watch India implement the new social media rules.

“Rules like the current one help strengthen the national interest and cyber sovereignty of countries, give governments much more control over how their citizens’ data is treated, and give them the power to govern businesses, the revenue from the users comes from the land by having an establishment and a mechanism for redressing complaints, ”said Duggal.

Social media companies with a large user base in the country will have to make significant changes to their operating model to meet the Indian government’s new mandates under the Information Technology Rules (Broker Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) 2021, which came into effect on February 25 are, as part of Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.

Messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal will likely need to dilute the end-to-end encryption in order to track the “first sender” of tagged messages.

Platforms like Facebook also need to create a new interface for India that gives users the ability to verify users through authorized Know-Your-Customer (KYC) processes and display a verification tag for those who wish.

While WhatsApp needs to develop a way to display the verification tag, Twitter needs to roll out the verified blue check mark feature for anyone who wants it.

Some experts said the rules violate freedom of expression and expression as well as privacy.

“The open Internet is essentially based on the principles of interoperability and common standards, which may begin to fragment under these rules,” said Udbhav Tiwari, public policy advisor at Mozilla. Some provisions, such as those that allow encrypted content traceability and automatic filtering, are fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encryption and will weaken the protection that millions of users rely on in their daily lives.

Big companies like WhatsApp are expected to resist breaking end-to-end encryption as it could set a global precedent. On Friday, ET reported that WhatsApp is “reviewing all options” following a government mandate to trace the source of contentious news and that Facebook’s proprietary app will “not bow” on user privacy.

“The rules will force social media intermediaries to deviate from their global practices in order to comply with Indian law, thereby implicitly creating a rift between their global platform and the platform accessible in India,” said Akash Karmakar, partner at Panag law firm & Babu.

Major social media intermediaries are also required to publish monthly suspension and compliance reports, aside from hiring large teams in India to meet mandates such as content removal within 36 hours from government agencies and 24 hours from users. They may also need to change their technology architecture to include automated tools to weed out content related to rape, sexual abuse, or child behavior.

Duggal said India needs to find a robust enforcement mechanism as the “teeth are missing” as the rules remain silent about the enforcement mechanism.

After India began pushing for message traceability in 2019 to curb fake news, the US Attorney General, UK Home Secretary and Australian Home Secretary wrote a joint letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg urging Facebook not to end -Perform end-of-line encryption without providing a means of legitimate access to protect citizens.

The electronics and information technology union secretary had told ET at the time, “What I’m pushing will be done by America, England, Australia and others … they have to do the decryption.”

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