Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not banned in India – Quartz India
Threats from the Indian government to ban international social media apps for failing to comply with new local guidelines are as damaging to the country as they are to these companies.
Today (May 26) is the last day for all social media companies to comply with a local regulation in India which was introduced in February and which obliges all companies. with over five million users to provide traceability of information and appoint a grievance officer.
Failure to follow the regulations will not end in a ban as many clickbait titles have suggested, but it will result in loss of intermediary status, which means that companies like Facebook and Twitter could be criminally responsible for any content deemed illegal on their platforms.
While the rule of traceability is nearly impossible for some, the haste with which the Narendra Modi government is acting – by granting a three-month deadline – is ludicrous, experts say. Compared to the Modi government’s instinctive policing, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has given companies two years to comply with their rules.
“These computer rules are not an attack on American big tech. It’s an Internet attack. They are unconstitutional, ”said Nikhil Pahwa, digital rights activist and founder of the Medianama news portal. “They affect all entities, whether Indian or international, and they affect all Indian users. These rules must go. They go beyond the scope of what the law allows and I hope the Supreme will overturn the rules for what they are.
WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, sued the government, seeking to block the new IT rules, according to Reuters. The messaging giant argues the rules require services to track every message because it’s unclear which messages a government would want to investigate in the future. “In doing so, a government that chooses to make traceability mandatory is effectively imposing a new form of mass surveillance”, WhatsApp wrote in a blog post.
Is India Becoming China?
During the year, the Modi government was repeatedly criticized for trying to restrict internet freedom in various ways.
For example, in 2018, the government examined the feasibility of block WhatsApp in Kashmir, alleging that terrorists were using the platform to stay in touch. In mid-2020, the government banned many popular Chinese apps such as the short form video sharing platform TikTok and the PUBG gaming app, alleging a threat to national security. And earlier this year, he urged Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to remove posts and block accounts discussing the mismanagement of India’s Covid-19 crisis.
The new IT rules are a “tool in the government’s pocket” that it can use to threaten platforms at any time, according to Pahwa. It is a first step towards the activation of a speech filtering mechanism on the Internet, as in China.
The settlement recalls the litigation of the Indian neighbor strict social media guidelines, others agree. “If these rules are not declared illegal by the courts, then we are heading for a police state, which is a valid comparison with China,” said Salman Waris, managing partner of the law firm TechLegis, adding that this could lead the government to “dictate everything on these platforms.” “
In addition to keeping vast amounts of data to pass to the government whenever requested, the new rules will also lead to platforms over-censoring content and require dangerous, unproven AI-based content regulation tools. that will compromise cybersecurity and privacy, according to digital rights -profit Access now.
What is most ironic is that a government obsessed with improving India’s place in the Ease of Doing Business Ranking makes it difficult for giants like Facebook and Twitter to run their business. The buzz surrounding the ban comes as Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar is in the United States meeting with senior administration officials Joe Biden.
Even though there is no ban, the strained relationship between tech giants and authorities has cemented the fact that India has an uncertain regulatory environment.
“In an effort to combat disinformation and regulate tech companies, the Indian government has gone beyond the powers granted by subordinate legislation and used them for political purposes,” said Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer with a practice in New York and New Delhi. . “Tech companies need regulation, but not at the expense of user rights.”
Despite the red flags, some social media apps are on board.
Indian alternatives to Facebook and Twitter see hope
Last year, the local social media platform ShareChat gained 59 million users overnight when Chinese apps were banned. India-made Twitter alternative, Koo, has received broad support from the government, while Twitter itself is in a constant fight with the country’s authorities – most recently on the manipulated media tag attributed to a Congress “toolbox” shared by members of the Bharatiya Janata party.
These native platforms often alleged that foreign companies were non-compliant and called for protectionist policies. They are trying to create a market for themselves by crippling foreign competition. But it is dangerous for the market as a whole.
“You have to reduce the power of all platforms, but let them have a level playing field. Let them compete on the basis of technology and resources, not on whether public policy is influenced to suit their business, ”Pahwa said. “This government-backed crony capitalism in the tech realm is something we shouldn’t have.”
Already these rules are a threat to democracy. But even beyond the country’s borders, these movements seriously damage India’s reputation. For one, who wants to do business in a country that arbitrarily changes the laws with little notice and poor planning? In addition, the government is not seeing the huge ripple effects of its demand.
“A big country, by adopting and enforcing these rules, could cause the big messaging platforms to pull out or not offer encrypted services all over the world,” Center for Democracy and Technology noted.