Social media companies operating in India had to comply with the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, starting from May 26, 2021. Released in February 2020, social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Koo were given three months to obey the orders. The New IT Rules (2021) specifies the requirement of appointing a resident grievance officer (part of a larger grievance redressal), vigorous monitoring of the content, monthly compliance reports for users in India, self-regulating mechanisms and also another oversight mechanism created by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
In layman terms, there’d be a much more quicker response to the complaints against the content posted as there’d be strict actions taken by the government against the filed complaints. But here’s the catch : censoring and removing of content can be very controversial as it can suppress the voices of citizens in a democratic country like India. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and we need to keep in mind that what’s offensive to some may not be ‘wrong’ to post. This will give the government the power to remove the content which doesn’t cater to its side or favours the opposition. It’s clearly unconstitutional and will affect how our society functions in a long run.
Moreover, Section 69A empowers the government to send secret requests to these social media platforms and if more power is given to the government, it’ll surely be misused. There’s no doubt that social media platforms owe its users more privacy and user rights. There has always been an imbalance of power and lack of transparency but it doesn’t mean we need to give our governments the right to censor and invade our privacy. It’s high time we need to have an equitable distribution and hold organisations accountable for their actions.Many users on the internet have gone as far as to comparing India with North Korea and China which are among the cruellest dictatorships in the world.
The government cannot ban these apps as most of them are USA apps and we all know the history of Indo-USA relations and any action against USA at the moment isn’t going to result well considering we’re facing a shortage of vaccines at the moment. Also, the Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar is on a 5-day visit in USA right now to discuss about the vaccines.
If only the Modi government worked for the welfare of the people instead of trying to ban apps and censor information, our country would’ve come a long way.
Author: Vanshika Jain