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Social media giants prepare to take on India over new strict internet rules

Tyrone Stewart

Social media appsMajor technology and social media companies are preparing to go to battle with the Indian government over proposed guidelines that would require them to actively regulate content in the South Asia country.

The new rules, which were proposed by the Information Technology ministry on Christmas Eve, would require platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to remove content which could affect the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India’ within 24 hours. The proposal is open for public comment until 31 January – at which point it will be adopted as law, with or without changes.

According to Reuters, citing sources, lobby groups – representing Facebook and other companies – in the US and India have begun working with law firms to understand the impact of the proposal and draft objections to be filled with the IT ministry.

There are concerns industry executives and civil rights activists that the rules are a sign of censorship and could be used to increase surveillance and limit dissent in the country. Internet browser developer Mozilla called the proposal “blunt and disproportionate”.

The proposals would also require messaging services like WhatsApp, which boasts end-to-end encryption, to reveal the origin of messages when asked. The Facebook-owned platform has come under fire in India for its service being used to disseminate fake news and the alleged role of this content in a number of mob lynchings last year. This led to the messaging app making a number of changes to try to limit the spread of fake news.