IT rules 2021 increase fear of cyber talk, privacy; critics believe it could lead directly to censorship – Technology News, Firstpost


It began in February a Tweet: Pop star Rihanna it provoked widespread condemnation of the massive handling of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mod the farmer protested close to the capital, which is already in trouble between the government and Twitter.

To move to curb the resistance, officials hit Twitter with several injunctions block hundreds of tweets critical to the government. Twitter followed some and opposed others.

Relations between Twitter and Mod’s board have since plummeted.

At the heart of the stop is a sweep Internet law It puts digital platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, directly under state control. Officials say rules are needed to stifle misinformation and hate speech and give users more power to report harmful content.

Critics of the law are concerned that it could lead directly to censorship in a country where digital freedoms have shrunk since Mod took office in 2014.

Police have attacked Twitter offices and have accused its Indian chief, Manish Maheshwar, of spreading “communal hatred” and “damaging the feelings of the Indians.” Last week, Maheshwari refused to submit to interrogations unless police promised not to arrest him.

Representative image

Representative image

On Wednesday, the company released a transparency report showing that India had sent most of the state’s intelligence requests to Twitter – Legal Information on Account Information. It accounted for a quarter of global requests in July-December last year.

It was the first time Twitter began publishing a report in 2012 that the U.S. shifted to “the most important requester worldwide.”

“India’s Internet plans seem to be like plans for a closed ecosystem like China,” Raheel Khursheed, former head of India’s policy, politics and government, told Laminar Global and Twitter. “The case of Twitter is the basis for how the future of the Internet will be shaped in India.”

Technology companies face similar challenges in many countries. China has aggressively tightened access control to its $ 1.4 billion market, which is already largely tied up by the Communist Party’s large firewall and U.S. trade and technology sanctions.

India is the second heavyweight, with 900 million users expected by 2025.

“Every internet company knows that India is probably the largest market in scale. Therefore, the opportunity to leave India is like a button they would press if they had no options left, ”said technical analyst Jayanth Kolla.

The new rules, which have been in place for years and announced in February, will apply to social media companies, streaming platforms and digital news publishers. They make it easier for the government to subscribe to more than 5 million users of social media platforms to remove illegal content. Individuals can now ask companies to remove material. If the state ministry reports the content is illegal or harmful, it must be removed within 36 hours. Failure to comply may result in prosecution.

Technology companies must also assign staff to respond to user complaints, respond to government requests, and ensure overall compliance with the rules.

Twitter exceeded the three-month deadline in May, provoking a strong rebuke from the Delhi High Court. Last week, with a month-long government, it appointed all three officers as needed.

“Twitter will continue to make every effort to comply with the new IT rules by 2021. We have kept the Government of India informed of progress at each stage of the process,” the company said in a statement. Associated Press.

Apar Gupta, CEO of the Internet Freedom Foundation, says he is concerned that the rules will lead to numerous cases against Internet platforms and prevent people from using them freely, leading to self-censorship. Many other critics say Mod’s Hindu nationalist government is setting the mood for so-called “digital authoritarianism”.

“If it’s easier to remove user content, it means cooling speech online,” Gupta said.

The government demands that the rules benefit and empower the Indians.

“Social media users can criticize Narendra Mod, they can criticize government policy and ask questions. I have to put it right on the record … But a private company sitting in America should refrain from lecturing us on democracy,” when it denies users the right to appeal, he said. former IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad newspaper Hindu last month.

Despite the contradiction between Mod and Twitter, he has been an enthusiastic user of the platform building his popular support for his Bharatiya Janata celebration. His government has also worked closely with the social media giant to allow Indians to use Twitter to seek help from ministries, especially on health issues. The Bharatiya Janata party’s social media team has since been accused of launching online attacks against Mod’s critics.

Yet previous Internet restrictions had already put the Washington-based Freedom House on the list of India, the world’s most populous democracy “Partly free” and not “free” in its annual analysis.

A law promulgated in February calls on technology companies to help with police investigations and help identify people who send “malicious information.” This means that messages need to be traceable, and experts say this may mean that end-to-end encryption is not allowed in India.

Facebook WhatsApp, with more than 500 million users in India, is sued the governmentsaying that a breach of encryption, which continues so far, “would seriously undermine the privacy of billions of digitally communicating people.”

Officials say they only want to trace messages that incite violence or threaten national security. WhatsApp says it can’t do it selectively.

“It’s like renting an apartment to someone, but you want to explore it whenever you want. Who wants to live in such a house?” Said Khursheed of Laminar Global.

Concerns about online freedom of speech, privacy and security are at the heart of a global effort to increase data transparency and localization, said technology expert Kolla.

Germany is urging social media companies to own local staff and data storage to curb hate speech. Countries like Vietnam and Pakistan are drafting similar legislation to India. In Turkey, social media companies fulfilled their broad power to remove content only after a fine and by threatening their advertising revenue.

Instead of moving away from the new rules, some companies are fighting in courts where news publishers, media associations and individuals have posed at least 13 legal challenges. But such cases can stretch for months or even years.

Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center in India, says the rules say social media platforms may lose their safe haven protection, protecting them from legal liability for user-generated content. The courts must decide on a case-by-case basis, he said. And their legal costs will inevitably go up.

“You know how it is in India. The process is a punishment, ”Choudhary said. “And until we get to the place where the courts really come and tell us the legal status and define those legal positions, there is an open season of technical resistance.”

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