The current trend on twitter like #goodbye and #IStandWithTwitterIndia are spreading like fire. The question comes why these trends have suddenly attained a high pace? To answer this let us go 3 months back. It all started on 25th February 2021, when the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a ‘Press Release’. What concerns the current social media commotion in the press release is new guidelines under the MeitY. The ministry gave 3-three-month deadline to the social media platforms to accept these guidelines, which ends on 25th May 2021.
Sources have said that if the social media giants fail to comply by May 25 and do not regulate the new rules from following day then the companies would be considered to have forfeited their status as an intermediary. Salient Features regarding the new Social Media guidelines are-
Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries- The social media giants will not just be the publishers but they will act like ‘intermediaries’ who are accountable for anything wrong that happens in their respective platform.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism- This basically empowers the users to establish a system where they can file their complaints and the compliance officer appointed shall deal with such complaints and resolve them within 15 days from their receipt.
Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Especially Women Users
Additional due diligence to be followed by significant media intermediary- These include appointment of Chief Compliance officer, a nodal contact person, and Resident Grievance Officer. A monthly compliance report be published, and they shall enable identification of the first originator of the information.
Since every topic has two aspects let us ponder on them and see what arguments are in favor and in disfavor.
The argument that has been in favor of these new guidelines is that they will bring clarity on responsibilities of intermediaries. Currently, these platforms have been exempted from liabilities under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, for any third-party information data hosted by them. This means they are not legally accountable for content posted by any user. These new guidelines shall also hold social media giants accountable for whatever content is posted in their platforms.
The very first argument that is being raised against these new laws is that government taking over free speech in India. These laws are also quoted as “cumbersome” three-tier regulatory system by editor-in-chief of the Print, Shekhar Gupta. The example of curbing free speech is the recent incident when during the farm protest the government ordered twitter to take down around 1100 tweets from the platform which were showing the government into bad light.
In the nutshell, there are around 53 crore users n WhatsApp, 44.8 crore in YouTube, 41 crores in Facebook, 21 crores in Instagram, and 1.75 crore in Twitter. These are massive numbers, now I would like to leave this question on you that if these platforms (which are also a source of income for a large chunk of Indians) are banned overnight, so will it be, OK?