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Regulation of social media

GS Paper 4:

 

Regulation of social media

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Draft rules in this regard.

For Mains: Need for regulation, challenges and concerns with existing rules.

 

Context: The centre is planning to come up with rules to regulate social media because it can cause “unimaginable disruption” to democracy.

Rules will help in curbing growing threats to “individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security.

 

Background:

The Supreme Court had expressed the need to regulate social media to curb fake news, defamation and trolling. It had also asked the Union government to come up with guidelines to prevent misuse of social media while protecting users’ privacy in three weeks’ time.

 

Existing regulations and misuse:

  • In India, social media platforms already come under the purview of the Information Technology (IT) Act, the ‘intermediaries guidelines’ that were notified under the IT Act in 2011 and the Indian Penal Code.
  • Under existing laws, social media channels are already required to take down content if they are directed to do so by a court or law enforcement.
  • There are also reporting mechanisms on these platforms, where they exercise discretion to ascertain whether a reported post is violating community guidelines and needs to be taken down.
  • These, however, have been reported to be arbitrary – many posts on body positivity and menstruation, for instance, have been taken down in the past while other explicit imagery continues to be allowed.
  • Many of the existing regulations themselves are “dangerously close to censorship and may have a chilling effect on freedom of speech, which is why cases are being fought on those in courts.”
  • Another problem of a lot of regulatory measures is the vagueness of language which is exploited by state agencies to behave in a repressive way.

 

Need for regulations:

The speed and reach of social media has meant that subversive rumours and fake news get aired with impunity. This has resulted in serious law and order problems. In India, this phenomenon has assumed dangerous proportions. Fake news on WhatsApp has led to lynchings and communal flare-ups in many parts of the country. This menace needs to be curbed. 

 

Challenges before the government:

Too stringent a policy of policing social media could violate the individual’s right to privacy.

It’s not easy to force Facebook Inc., the owner of WhatsApp, to give up on the app’s unique selling proposition to the user of complete end-to-end confidentiality.

 

Way ahead:

Any conversation on additional regulation of social media brings up concerns about privacy and surveillance.

Therefore, any bid at regulating expression online has to be proportional and concrete with adequate redressal mechanisms and without any blanket provisions.

 

Sources: the Hindu.