The last 24 hours have seen the media abuzz with reports of a potential ban on social media platforms such Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram, in light of the government’s new IT rules and guidelines that are to come into effect today, 26 May.
In February, the government of India announced a fresh set of IT rules to be followed by all social media platforms operating in the country. These included installing chief compliance officers, nodal officers to work with law enforcement authorities, and arbitrators for grievance redressals of social media users
WhatsApp in particular has been in the news for its new privacy policies, which have raised concerns about how user data will be used in the future, although Facebook has reiterated that user data privacy is still topmost priority. The new IT rules may mean message could be traced back to the original sender, making the end-to-end encryption Whatsapp promises redundant.
Facebook on Tuesday sent out an official statement outlining its aim to adhere to the IT rules and its commitment to discuss issues “which need more engagement with the government.” OTT platforms have also asked for extensions to comply with government rules in some form.
The question on everyone’s minds is whether this means, social media platforms that don’t follow the new IT guidelines will be banned in the country?
Well, no. It has not happened today, so it is unlikely any full ban will take effect.
At least not right now.
So what has changed with the new guidelines?
The erstwhile IT Act provided protection to social media companies and streaming services by making them “intermediaries” in the dissemination of content. They were in a wat ‘middlemen’ not responsible for user content shared on their platforms.
Non-compliance with the new IT rules could see this protection being taken away. This means those that don’t comply could be taken to court and prosecuted by law.
So it leaves them exposed to any events deemed problematic by the establishment. But they can function as they are right now with no effect on the users.
Given how indispensable some of these platforms have become in the sharing and creation of information, including important public messaging on especially Twitter, it means that any outright ban would be counter-productive even for the authorities.
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