Fake news: How new rules are taking social media giants to task
GUIDELINES REQUIRE PLATFORMS TO TAKE DOWN OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT WITHIN 24 HOURS
As India gears up for the general elections, owners of social media platforms wonder how to curb the spread of misinformation and fake news in a country where deep mobile penetration has made Facebook, its messaging service WhatsApp, and Twitter available at the fingertips of millions.
Despite their sincere efforts that began in the later half of 2018 — including ad campaigns and collaborations with fact-checking agencies — the Indian government has now formulated new IT guidelines that state social media platforms have to remove within 24 hours any unlawful content that can affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India”.
India is a lucrative market for social media firms and has the potential to grow bigger, with over 400 million smartphones and over 700 feature phone users, the latter being targeted by mobile manufacturers with feature-packed, entry-level devices that would help them get full access to social media apps.
For Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, India is extremely important.
“We love the conversational nature of the society and culture. We’re really excited to make Twitter viable to more and more people in the country,”
Dorsey said during his India visit in November last year.
Facebook, with close to 300 million users and over 200 million users for its WhatsApp service in India, is also bullish on the future growth prospects.
According to experts, social media platforms must look at India from a fresh perspective when it comes to honouring the law of the land.
“For the social media players, India is a huge market and they want to grow... On the other hand, they have consistently failed to stop the spread of fake news and propaganda on their platforms,” Pavan Duggal, a leading cyber law expert, said.
The proposed rules, said Duggal, are in the right direction to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
Risks to free speech
Prasanth Sugathan, a technology lawyer and Legal Director at Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), however feels the new rules have gone beyond the provisions of the parent act.
“The draft intermediary rules have implications for free speech rights of users with requirements for automated content removal and an array of ambiguous terms used to categorise content deemed unlawful.”