New Rules for Social Media Applications: Privacy at Stake
At the end of February 2020, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in India was expected to officially publish a set of new guidelines for social media and messaging applications, which had more than five million users. According to some reports, the new rules would make it mandatory for companies to reveal user identities, if and when asked by government agencies. Moreover, they would be required to help trace any post to its origin and preserve their records to help investigators. However, tech companies providing browsers, operating systems, online repositories of knowledge and software development platforms were exempted from the rules.
Industry observers believed that even though a large part of the new rules were consistent with what several nations across the world were asking to make social media and messaging app companies accountable, there were some rules that did go a lot further than in other countries, as they required blanket cooperation with government inquiries, with there being no need for a warrant or judicial order.
The Ministry claimed that the new rules were drafted to quash the dissemination of fake news and quickly detect anti-social elements in the Indian Internet ecosystem. It further stated that the rules were required to control the rising threat to the nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security. Certain observers thought that the concerns of the government were valid, considering the fact that cybersecurity-related issues in India had increased by 90% in 2019.
However, following the implementation of the rules, almost 400 million India social media users were expected to lose their privacy. The Internet and Mobile Association of India comprising several social media and tech companies stated that the new rules “would be a violation of the right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court.” They further added that the new rules served as an invitation to ‘abuse and censor’, apart from putting a heavy burden on new and growing companies.