Facebook – Google, Facebook say ready to comply with revised IT rules
The world’s largest social media platform Facebook, which also runs WhatsApp and Instagram, among the largest messaging and social media platforms in India– said that it “aims to comply” with the new Rules even as it “continues to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government,” a Facebook spokesperson told ET in a statement.
Search giant Google, while stating that it respects “India’s legislative process” said it has a long history of “responding to government requests to remove content” when the content violates the local law or its product policies.
A representative for the company said, “we have consistently invested in significant product changes, resources, and personnel to ensure that we’re combating illegal content in an effective and fair way, and in order to comply with local laws in the jurisdictions that we operate in.”
Even as they seek an extension of the deadline for compliance, internet majors have not indicated when they will be fully compliant with the revised regulations.
The government is yet to take a call on whether to grant an extension to large social media platforms by a few weeks to implement the new IT rules according to top officials in the know.
“No decision has been taken by the government on this yet. Companies have already represented (to us) for an extension,” they added.
A second official pointed out that as the revised rules have already been notified, “companies will have to abide by them, whether they like them or not. ”
ET had reported on Tuesday that social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Twitter
run the risk of losing their status as “intermediaries” and may become liable for criminal action if they do not comply with the revised regulations.
Industry executives said that while top internet companies had begun implementing some of the required provisions, the pandemic has delayed progress and an extension of a few weeks will help them complete the process of introducing relevant changes.
“Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” a representative for Facebook stated.
For instance, many companies publish transparency reports on a quarterly or half-yearly basis but the new Rules mandate companies to file their reports on a monthly basis.
“This will require changes to the procedures, which are already underway but not completed yet,” said one of the people cited above.
In response to queries from ET a spokesperson for Google said, “We realize that our work in keeping our platforms secure is never done and we will continue to refine our existing approaches and evolve our policies and be as transparent as possible about how we make decisions.”
India has fixed five million registered users as the threshold for defining a significant social media intermediary. It has directed appointment of a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and nodal contact person and to publish the details of these executives on their website, along with a physical contact address. The rules also mandate traceability of the originator of messages, along with a provision for voluntary verification as a means to establish user identity.
In a bid to persuade the government to reconsider some of the provisions, global internet majors have sought the intervention of industry associations including FICCI, CII, and the US-India Business Council to represent their case with the centre, while also seeking an extension of the deadline for compliance.
Meanwhile, the government has received widespread criticism of the action by a team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell, which visited the offices of micro-blogging site Twitter with regard to an ongoing investigation on tagging some tweets by BJP leaders as Manipulated Media.
“This wave of digital repression seeks to silence critics and frustrate public scrutiny of the many over-broad, opaque, rights-violating directives that are being made of online platforms in India,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now.