Social Media regulation in India

The government of India informed the country’s apex court that laws regulating social media websites and other services that create digital content on the Internet would be ready as early as January 2020.

In a legal document sent to the court, the government said, “The internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity.”

According to them, “regulation of intermediaries” is required to tackle the threats catering to the “nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security” that come with the service.

Back in last December, the Indian government drafted a set of guidelines that considered social media services having more than 5 million users as intermediaries.

The government has also said that discussions around the revised rules is ongoing, and several associations and social media companies are being included. However, the entire process will be completed by early 2020.

This comes after the Supreme Court asked India to give a timeline for finalizing the rules to regulate social media.

Previously, the court has shown concerns regarding the misuse of social media, particularly during the hearing of Facebook, where the company asked the court to move all its cases to be heard by the apex court itself.

Many cases have been filed in India over the interlinking of Aadhaar (the unique biometric ID system) and social media profiles. Facebook, an intermediary, has argued that meeting such demands would require breaking their social media encryption used in the WhatsApp service.

While submitting the legal document, the government told the court that there is a boom in the number of Internet users in India because of the low tariff plans and affordability of Android devices.

The government believes that this has led to an “exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using internet/social media platforms.”

It’s worth noting that the the right-wing government has been overly subjective with the term “anti-national.” Previously, activists and university students raising opposing opinions have often been termed “derogatory” and “Anti-national” by the ruling BJP-led government.

It would be interesting to see how the revised social media regulation rules come into play and what impact it would create on Facebook and Adhaar linkage case.

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