Govt.’s draft rules to regulate social media echo SC orders

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Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various sections mentioned in the amendment bill

Mains level: Menace of unlawful content over social media and measures to curb it


News

  • The draft rules proposed by the government to curb “unlawful content” on social media that make it mandatory for intermediaries to trace the “originator” of such content have drawn strong criticism.
  • However, a close look at the draft Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Amendment Rules, 2018, shows that they are in line with the Supreme Court in recent cases.

Court’s concern

  1. The court has voiced its concern over irresponsible content on social media.
  2. It has reflected in a July 2018 judgment in the Tehseen S. Poonawalla case.
  3. The court gave the government a virtual carte blanche to stop/curb dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages on various social media platforms, which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
  4. For instance, Rule 3 of the draft speaks about the “due diligence” to be observed by online platforms that have over 50 lakh users.

Norms for access

  1. It proposes the publication of rules, a privacy policy and user agreement for access to a social intermediary’s resource.
  2. Clause (1) of Rule 3 mandates that a user cannot host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share information, for example, which is pornographic, pedophilic, racially or ethnically objectionable, invasive of another’s privacy, harms minors in anyway, etc.
  3. On December 6, a SC Bench, led by Justice Lokur, mentioned online giants and recorded that everybody is agreed that child pornography, rape and gang-rape videos and objectionable material need to be stamped out.
  4. The same order also noted submissions by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for WhatsApp, that they have an end-to-end encryption technology, due to which it will not be possible to remove the content.
  5. Subsequently, on December 11, the Bench ordered the Centre to frame the necessary guidelines and implement them within two weeks to eliminate child pornography, rape and gang rape imagery, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
  6. These two orders came on a suo motu case being heard in the SC from 2015 to curb online sexual abuse.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges
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