Most tech giants do not follow the new rules. If these are reluctant to follow the new rules, they will lose the protection that “intermediaries” get in the IT Act. The rules may make services such as Twitter and WhatsApp less private for the long term, giving users less anonymity. Let see if India bans social media giants WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter from May 26, Deadline came
Three months ago, in response to some bold steps from Twitter, the Central government made some new IT rules. These rules cover a lot of aspects, exceptionally empowering the government over any IT firm in India. About all internet companies, whether they are social media networks, news organizations, messaging apps, or streaming services like Netflix, all are compelled to follow the rules. The deadline to do so, which is also mentioned in the rules, is expiring tonight. Shortly, stress will begin tomorrow for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp.
The first question that pops up here is whether or not Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp will be banned in India from tomorrow that is from May 26? Less likely. But if they do not comply with the new rules they will always be at risk of significant government action against them.
To better understand the scenario, see what the government is asking for:
Government seeks to impose many new conditions and regulatory requirements on social media firms. Some of these worth mentioning are as follows:
1- Big tech companies —These are “significant social media” according to the government – so must have a chief compliance officer in India who can respond to government demands whenever necessary. For instance, if the government requires data of a user from Twitter for a legal purpose, then this compliance officer will be responsible for providing this data.
2- The tech firm is also being told to hire a nodal officer that will cooperate with law enforcement agencies 24/7 when needed.
3- These also have to appoint a grievance redressal officer, whom social media users could reach with their grievances if they have any.
4- Last but not least, companies like WhatsApp are supposed to ensure that they can trace a message to the original sender. Though, this means the company will break or circumvent end-to-end encryption on messages. Complying with such a request is challenging, if not outright impossible, for a service like WhatsApp.
In addition to these, there are many other rules, but most of them are technological and policy changes that the tech companies are being asked to implement. Coming out with these rules on February 25, the government told companies to comply within three months. Tonight, the deadline is getting over.
So, what is next to expect? Will Netflix be restricted in India? Will WhatsApp be banned from the big country? What circumstances will Twitter face? Let see if India bans social media giants or not.
To date, most tech giants have not yet complied with the new IT rules. Netflix, though, has done it. Some other streaming services have also done it. While, Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, says that “we aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government.”
In case, they fail to comply with, the government hasn’t specified a lot, but a vague statement in its rules which is:
“Where an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not apply to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code.”
What does this mean?
Let’s go through subsection (1) of Section 79 of the IT Act. to fully get to know what it means. This clause, however, in the IT Act gives protection to social media firms and web services by making them “intermediaries.” Thus, they are not responsible for user content.
So, Government says if Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, or any other tech firm is not willing to follow the new rules, they will lose the protection that “intermediaries” get in the IT Act. After that, they can be dragged into court and prosecuted using the applicable laws.
In easy words, it can be said that with the new intermediary rules, the provision for the punishment for rejecting the rules is broad enough and opaque.
What does this all mean for users?
Nothing to come up short at least. Twitter and all other companies will manage to comply with the new rules tonight or not, these will be working in India tomorrow. However, these services if not comply with the new rules of Government, will be operating only until the government doesn’t take a step against them.
In case the government needs to move against them, it will be rather punitive. For instance, the government may find them or restrict their business in India. Last year, when Turkey brought similar rules, in case of non-compliance, the Turkish government banned social media firms from serving advertisements in Turkey.
In the long term, however, there could be many other implications for Indian internet users. The rules may make services such as Twitter and WhatsApp less private, giving users less anonymity and reduced safety from surveillance.
But as far as May 26 is concerned, relax, there will a flood of tweets tomorrow and you will receive Good morning messages from WhatsApp contacts as well.