Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok will have to reveal user details if government agencies ask them to, as per a new rule for such platforms that is likely to be published later this month. This comes amid attempts by governments across the world to hold social media companies accountable for the content circulated in their platforms.
According to a report in Bloomberg, this rule comes as governments are struggling to fight fake news, child porn, terrorism-related content as well as racism. However, India's new guidelines go a step beyond most governments' as it is looking for blanket cooperation with government inquiries with no requirement of warrant or judicial order.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, according to the report, is expected to publish the new rules without much change despite the Internet and Mobile Association of India's objection that this rule "would be a violation of the right to privacy recognised by the Supreme Court". The trade body had said this in its response to the government's call for feedback after it proposed the guideline in 2018.
The earlier draft required social media sites to help the government trace back the origins of a post within 72 hours of the request. They were also required to preserve their records for 180 days, establish a brick and mortar operation within India and appoint a grievance officer for users and a government liaison. The ministry is still finalising the document.
The report states that the rule must be followed by all social media and messaging apps with more than 5 million users. India has an estimated 500 million internet users.
Executives from Mozilla Corp and GitHub Inc had written to IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and stated that the order would require the platforms to trace their users, therefore harming the fundamental right to privacy. However, the government officials said that only social media platforms and messaging apps will be covered and not browsers, operation systems, or online repositories of knowledge.