India’s upcoming content policing rules might only apply to ‘major’ social platforms

India’s upcoming content policing rules might only apply to ‘major’ social platforms
Credit: Rahul-Chakraborty

India‘s upcoming intermediary rules — aimed at controlling and monitoring online content — have a lot of big and small tech firms worried about censorship of their platforms. But a new report suggests the legislation will only affect major social media networks, such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram.

According to a report by Economic Times, an unnamed government official told the publication that the content takedown rules will only apply to major firms. However, the report doesn’t specify what’s the definition of a ‘major firm,’ in the context of the upcoming rules.

“The rules are meant only for social media content and, therefore, other eCommerce or streaming technology firms such as Amazon and Netflix must not worry about the content takedown, traceability, and grievance officer,” the official told the Economic Times.

India’s current IT Act 2000 exempts any online entity from liability for content posted by users on their platforms. This sub-section in existing rules has allowed companies like Google and Facebook to grow exponentially in the country and enjoy “safe harbor.”

However, in a draft of proposed rules released in 2018, authorities sought to change this scenario and hold social media platforms liable for sensitive content published by users. Plus, these rules also categorize any digital entity with more than five million users as intermediaries. With over 627 million internet users in India, it’s not a very tough number to achieve even for a small company or an independent developer.

In the current scenario, big-name social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are struggling with content moderation and takedown requests despite having sizable teams at the disposal.

For small-sized firms, it’ll be near impossible to concentrate on monitoring thousands of posts going up on their platform every minute, and conform to the government’s shifting standards for what passes as acceptable content. It might also stifle their ability to grow their business quickly. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of smaller platforms get caught up in the net once the new rules come into play.

Earlier this week, open-source companies including GitHub and Mozilla appealed to the government to scale back on its monitoring and traceability demands defined in the 2018 draft.

The government is set to present the new set of rules to the apex Supreme court next week on January 15.

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