Opinion | Social media cannot go unregulated anymore2 min read 01 Jun 2020, 10:02 PM IST
Given its vast influence, India needs a law that is equipped to restrict its adverse effects, although the rules we adopt must neither stifle free speech nor invade the privacy of users
US President Donald Trump’s attempt at reining in social media platforms has made policymakers around the world sit up and take notice. In India, the US move has fuelled a debate over the responsibility and culpability of such platforms for the content they carry. Though our Information Technology Act of 2000 covers such matters, its application tends to discourage these apps from intervening in what people put out, with the result that moderation is minimal and it takes a court order to take down offensive or dangerous material. As of now, if a platform does not interfere at all, its liability for content is shielded; if it does, it could be dragged into a dispute. But the harm posed by fake news and messages that incite lawlessness is obvious. We thus need an updated legal framework that allows social media to serve its purpose without being a menace to civil society. So far, online discourse in India has been a free-for-all, where gross misinformation gets peddled all too often, sometimes as a means to some political end. The big question, however, is how our online spaces can be sanitized without compromising free speech and user privacy, both of which are rights our citizens are entitled to.