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WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter ban from tomorrow? Here's what we know so far

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS)

The new rules were announced in February which requires large social media platforms to follow additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer

Social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp are facing the deadline of May 25 to comply with India's new guidelines for digital platforms.

The new rules were announced in February which requires large social media platforms to follow additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

These rules were introduced to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram - which have seen a phenomenal surge in usage over the past few years in India - more accountable and responsible for the content hosted on their platform.

Following this, Facebook on Tuesday said it is working to implement operational processes and aims to comply with the provisions of the IT rules that come into effect from May 26 without revealing when that would be implemented.

The social media giant, however, said it continues to discuss a “few of the issues which need more engagement" with the government.

Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform, the spokesperson added.

The company, however, did not divulge additional details.

What does the loss of intermediary status mean?

The loss of intermediary status would mean every user post on these social media platforms would be considered as being published by the companies, making them criminally liable for any content deemed illegal. As a publisher, platforms will have to proactively censor content before they appear online — like the China's internet. But platforms are continuing to negotiate and are seeking six months time to comply with the new rules.

What does India's IT ministry say?

As per news agency PTI, IT Ministry sources said that appointment of a grievance officer would be a key requirement from day one of rules coming into effect, given the importance of public interface for complaints, and need for an acknowledgement system for requests.

Non-compliance with rules would result in these social media companies losing their intermediary status that provides them exemptions from liabilities for any third-party information and data hosted by them.

On February 25, the government had announced tighter regulations for social media firms, requiring them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a robust complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country.

The government had set 50 lakh registered users as the threshold for defining 'significant social media intermediary', meaning that large players like Twitter, Facebook and Google would have to comply with additional norms.

Announcing the guidelines in February, it had said the new rules take effect immediately, while significant social media providers (based on number of users) will get three months before they need to start complying.

The three-month time period meant compliance by May 25.

Last week, Koo had said it has complied with the requirements of the new rules and its Privacy Policy, Terms of Use and Community Guidelines now reflect the changes. Koo has close to 6 million (60 lakh) users, making it a major social media intermediary under the new guidelines.

What changes after accepting the IT rules?

Significant social media companies will also have to publish a monthly compliance report disclosing details of complaints received and action taken, as also details of contents removed proactively. They will also be required to have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app, or both.

As per data cited by the government, 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.

Social media companies will have to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

Notably, the rules require significant social media intermediaries - providing services primarily in the nature of messaging - to enable identification of the "first originator" of the information that undermines sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order.

The intermediary, however, will not be required to disclose the contents of any message. This could have major ramifications for players like Twitter and WhatsApp.

The rules also state that users who voluntarily want to verify their accounts should be given an appropriate mechanism to do so, and be accorded a visible mark of verification.

Users will have to be provided with a prior intimation and explanation when a significant social media intermediary removes content on its own. In such cases, users have to be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.

With inputs from PTI

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