Facebook, Mozilla, and others take on India’s proposed new social media regulations

Facebook, Mozilla, and others take on India’s proposed new social media regulations

(Reuters) — Global social media and technology giants are gearing up to fight sweeping new rules proposed by the Indian government that would require them to actively regulate content in one of the world’s biggest Internet markets, sources close to the matter told Reuters. The rules, proposed by the Information Technology ministry on Christmas Eve, would compel platforms such as Facebook, its messaging service WhatsApp and Twitter to remove unlawful content, such as anything that affected the “sovereignty and integrity of India.” This had to be done within 24 hours, the rules propose. Social media firms have long battled efforts by governments around the world to hold them responsible for what users post on their platforms. “The companies can’t take this lying down. We are all concerned, it’s fundamental to how these platforms are governed,” said an executive at a global social media company. A Twitter spokesperson said the company continues to engage with the IT Ministry and civil society on the proposed rules. “This will be like a sword hanging on technology companies,” said Nikhil Narendran, a partner specializing in technology law at Indian law firm Trilegal. Vietnam has asked tech companies to open local offices and store data domestically, while Australia’s parliament has passed a bill to force companies to give police access to encrypted data. The new rules, called “intermediary guidelines”, also propose requiring companies with more than 5 million users in India to have a local office and a nodal officer for “24×7 coordination with law enforcement”. WhatsApp has battled criticism after fake messages about child kidnap gangs on its platform sparked mob lynchings in India last year.

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(Reuters) — Global social media and technology giants are gearing up to fight sweeping new rules proposed by the Indian government that would require them to actively regulate content in one of the world’s biggest Internet markets, sources close to the matter told Reuters.

The rules, proposed by the Information Technology ministry on Christmas Eve, would compel platforms such as Facebook, its messaging service WhatsApp and Twitter to remove unlawful content, such as anything that affected the “sovereignty and integrity of India.” This had to be done within 24 hours, the rules propose.

The proposal, which caught many holidaying industry executives off guard, is open for public comment until January 31. It will then be adopted as law, with or without changes.

The move comes ahead of India’s national election due by May and amid rising worries that activists could misuse social media, especially the WhatsApp messaging service, to spread fake news and sway voters.

Industry executives and civil rights activists say the rules smack of censorship and could be used by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase surveillance and crack down on dissent. Social media firms have long battled efforts by governments around the world to hold them responsible for what users post on their platforms.

U.S. and India lobby groups, representing Facebook and other companies, have sought legal opinions from law firms on the impact of the federal proposal, and have started working on drafting objections to be filed with the IT ministry, four sources in the sector said.

“The companies can’t take this lying down. We are all concerned, it’s fundamental to how these platforms are governed,” said…

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