Updated: May 27, 2021
In a worrying development for social media addicts, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter might be banned in India if they fail to comply with the guidelines set by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITy). The social media platforms had to accept the government’s demands until 25th May.
What are these new rules?
According to the new guidelines, platforms need to have a Chief Compliance Officer who can address the government’s demands. They also need to have a Nodal Officer and a Grievance Redressal Officer who will co-ordinate with law enforcement agencies and solve consumer problems respectively.
Also, messaging apps like WhatsApp will need to make their conversations traceable which basically means that they can’t be encrypted. This can be a serious issue for the platform considering people are becoming increasingly aware of online privacy.
Have the rules been followed?
Facebook had recently put out a statement saying, “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government.” The new guidelines have already come into effect and all the platforms are working fine. However, it remains unclear if all the platforms have accepted the rules. If they haven’t, they’ll lose their intermediary status and be liable for prosecution in case of any controversy.
“These IT rules are not an attack on American big tech. They are an attack on the internet. They are unconstitutional. They affect every entity, whether Indian or international, and they affect every Indian user. These rules need to go. They go beyond the ambit of what the law allows and I hope the supreme will strike down rules for what they are,” Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist and founder of Medianama told Quartz India.
Is India going on the same road as China?
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all banned in China and one needs to use a VPN to access these websites. Even in India, hugely popular apps like PUBG and TikTok were banned last year. Earlier this year, the government even asked these social media giants to remove posts criticizing the government.
An argument given by supporters of the BJP government is that banning these websites will increase traction for home-grown social media platforms like Koo.
“You should curtail the power of all platforms but let them have a level playing field. Let them compete on the basis of tech and resources, not on the basis of whether public policy is influenced to suit their business,” Pahwa told Quartz India.
The Urruda take
Though social media platforms have their fair share of evils, we are against any sort of ban. These websites help keep many businesses running and several jobs are created because of them. Wiping them off the face of internet won’t just affect people, it will also scare away foreign investors. No organization would like to do business in a country that takes such rash decisions with little or no planning.
Also, these platforms have been extremely useful in arranging resources like oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir injections for people during the coronavirus pandemic.