After New Delhi declared plans for strict new regulations that could require websites to delete content it finds offensive, Internet freedom advocates cautioned Indians this Friday. The statements said that new Indian social media laws could present a threat to freedom of speech.
Social media outlets, video streaming sites, and digital news services will be required to delete content 36 hours after a complaint is made, under the new regulations, announced on Thursday and set to come into force in three months.
If asked by the government or Indian court, tech firms would also have to reveal the source of a “mischievous tweet or post.”
This could lead to the exposure of encrypted messages, a crucial selling point for the Facebook-owned WhatsApp site, which in India has hundreds of millions of users.
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The regulations should be abolished, according to Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox Internet browser, which is used by hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
“In their current form, these rules will undeniably harm freedom of expression, privacy, and security and could be subject to legal challenges,” said Mozilla Corporation public policy advisor Udbhav Tiwari.
“I think these new regulations are extremely worrisome because they are imposing a regulation on free speech and privacy without any backing of the law,” Nikhil Pahwa, founder of a digital news portal and a cyber activist, told AFP.
“In my opinion, all these rules should be challenged in court and if they are, I doubt they would hold up.”
Other Indian groups have warned that the rules could be challenged in the courts because they are severe and unfair to the purpose behind the reforms.
The rules are being studied by Facebook and Twitter, which see India’s 1.3 billion people as the main market.
“We look forward to continued engagement with the government of India to strike a balance between transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy,” said a Twitter spokesperson.
They added that the social media giant requires legislation that preserves the free internet, universal access and encourages competition and innovation.
As the announcement of the new regulations was made on Thursday, New Delhi accused the major tech companies of having “double standards”.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now in a lengthy battle with Twitter over protests by tens of thousands of farmers over government market reforms. During this, the social media giant, Twitter refused to remove hundreds of profiles and tweets as ordered by the government.