The Indian government is all set on taking its first step towards regulating the tech platforms in India. Recently the government has passed new Intermediary guidelines for the Information Technology Act (IT Act). The guidelines are brought to action in terms of placing certain types of restrictions on OTT platforms, social media platforms, and digital news media organizations like ‘The Print’. These Information technologies (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 are said to likely collide with the existing policies of the platforms. A law on cybersecurity along with these new rules and the upcoming Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill will decide the fate of internet and internet-based companies. This will also decide what all kinds of things you can or cannot see on the internet. It can be said that these rules will decide the fate of the internet in India.
Impact On Users and the Platform
The platforms would have to reanalyze their policies to conform to the rules and the PDP bill. Sometimes, the platforms may also have to reconsider their whole algorithm itself to conform to the new rules, this may require the next level of research which eventually might cost the platforms higher research and development costs (R&D). Some platforms that already generate quite less amount revenue from the country might also decide to leave the country, this might also impact the economy and well as for readers, this would have an implication of regulation of things that they should or should not be watching on the Internet.
What are These Rules?
Social media platforms are required to put in their grievance redressal code and trace content to their first originator within India. A Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards in regards to Digital Media has been put forward. There is also a Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme code under Cable TV Networks Regulation Act which is supposed to be followed by the Digital Media platforms.
Concerns Related To These Rules
The main thing that should be concerning to everyone is that the encrypted messaging apps will need a lot more collection of user data to trace messages back to their first originator. This would mean that the people could get themselves into trouble even if they simply just share a tweet or message that has been originated outside India, that is the messenger will be attacked instead of the actual creator, which is quite unfair in my opinion. Experts believe that if these IT rules are applied to the news media, it will account for an unfair amount of censorship on news.
What About Your Chats?
When it comes to talking about data and the transfer of this huge amount of data from messaging apps, it creates a lot of skepticism in the minds of the users as to if their chats will be exposed to the app. Therefore to answer this question, No. the chats won’t be necessarily accessed by the messaging app because their main aim is to reach the first originator of the text and not go through anyone’s chats, therefore to do so they just use the fingerprint of a particular message to check where it all started. This is done using another app and for that, the messaging app does not necessarily have to go through anyone’s chats.
A Little Information About The Information Technology Act (IT Act) and the 69A Section
The Information technology act came into force on 17 October 2000, the bill was signed by President K.R. Narayanan. The further finalization of the bill was done by India’s Minister of Information Technology, Pramod Mahajan. Initially, the act only addressed e-signatures, electronic documents, and authentication of those records. Penalties were introduced for breaching offenses such as damaging computer systems or committing cyber terrorism. In the year 2008, however, the act also included mobile phones and held owners of a particular IP address responsible for some type of accessed and distributed content. A lot of controversies arose when section 66A came into the picture, according to this, offensive messages were supposed to be considered illegal and the owners of the servers were held responsible.
69A section: The 69A section allows the center to block public access to an intermediary to protect and safeguard the sovereignty, integrity, defense, security, friendly relations with foreign states, of India. The intermediary includes network service providers, internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, telecom service providers, cyber cafes, online payment sites, online auction sites, online marketplaces, etc.”
What All Does The IT Act of 2000 Involve?
Firstly, it is important to understand the Information Technology Act (IT Act) only applies to companies that are operating and doing business in India, and just because the company has a certain amount of userbase in the country does not make it liable to adhere to this act. The most common example is Instagram, the company has a huge userbase in India and, to say the least, is quite popular but the company does not belong to India and is based in the U.S., this makes the company not responsible for the IT act and the company is not bound to comply its policies with regards to the act. However, if we were to talk about companies such as Snapdeal, the main thing here becomes that the company is Indian and all of the transactions are held in India itself so this makes the company eligible for the IT act and the company will have to comply its policies as per the act.