Why Facebook, Twitter could be banned in India from tomorrow as new IT Rules come into Effect

So far, only Indian micro-blogging platform Koo has complied with the rules.

Social Media platforms Twitter and Facebook could potentially be banned in India after the deadline to comply with the Centre’s new IT Rules ends on May 26th, tomorrow.

The rules, which include appointment of compliance officials, giving their name and contact address in India, complaint resolution, monitoring of objectionable content, compliance report and removal of objectionable content, were announced by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITy) on February 25th this year along with a three-month deadline for social media platforms to comply with them.

However, so far none of the players including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram has complied with the new regulations, except for the Indian micro-blogging platform Koo. Pertaining to this, any of these social media platforms fail to accept these guidelines, they risk losing status as social media platforms and protections as intermediaries. The government can also take action against them as per the law of the land for not following the rules.

Some social media platforms have reportedly asked for a six-month deadline, saying they were awaiting instructions from their US headquarters.

Facebook has indicated that it’ll comply with the IT rules. “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. According to the IT rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” an official spokesperson of the company said in a statement.

Twitter on the other hand has said that they keep their own fact-checkers that neither identifies nor reveal how the facts are being investigated. 

The rules, or the Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, aim to make social media companies more accountable. The rules include the appointment of the supervisory mechanism will include a committee with representatives from Defense, Foreign Affairs, Home, I&B, Law, Information Technology and Development of Women and Children.

It will have ‘suo motu powers’ to call hearings on complaints of violation of the Code of Ethics if it wants. The government will also designate an officer of the rank of a Joint Secretary or above as the “Authorised Officer” who can direct blocking of content.  

Meanwhile, industry experts believe that social media giants must comply with new IT rules and government can also take a mid-ground. These platforms are now an integral part of digital media and should not be taken off.

While Facebook, Twitter, and other such platforms must comply with law of the land, these platforms should not be taken off. These are integral and play a very important role as well.

As per latest Government data, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 21 crore Instagram clients, while 1.75 crore account holders are on microblogging platform Twitter. Koo has close to 60 lakh users, making it a major social media intermediary under the new guidelines.

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