secure harbour: Fb storm makes govt ‘rethink’ secure harbour for social media platforms

India is considering “rethinking” the safe harbor framework enjoyed by the country’s social media platforms.

This comes at a time when calls for further regulation of Facebook have increased worldwide following the revelations by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The center is monitoring the global development of the situation and believes the “blanket exemption” for social media companies must be lifted, senior government officials told ET.

“The platforms have to be responsible for the content; They cannot hide behind the safe haven, they have to be much more proactive in identifying and removing harmful and hateful content, ”said one official.

While the new IT rules address some concerns about reporting and removing content and have also put in place a complaint mechanism, the only way to rethink is through an amendment to the broader Information Technology Act of 2000, which was last amended in 2008, long before smartphones hit the world held the land.

India is approaching 750 million internet users and is the largest market in terms of users for many technology giants including Facebook.


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“There is a need for legislation in this area and the government is already thinking in that direction. Whether in Europe or America, everyone is thinking about the Safe Harbor provision and we also think it needs to be changed, ”the official said.

Pursuant to Section 79 of the IT Act, intermediaries, including social media companies, are given immunity from content posted by third parties on their platforms.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said on CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday that the company was working on new measures, including a “take a break” feature in its apps, to keep teens away from harmful content keep away.

He also said that Facebook’s algorithms “should be held accountable through regulation if necessary so that people can match what our systems say what to do with what is actually happening.”

Facebook is open to changing a provision in 1996 US law that shields companies from liability for what users post, he added.

Facebook is open to limiting this protection “provided that they apply the systems and their policies as they should,” said Clegg.

Haugen has accused the technology giant of putting profit before security. She is expected to testify in the UK Parliament’s Online Security Law Committee on October 25th. The committee is currently reviewing a law that would impose obligations on social media companies to protect users, especially children.

The leaders of France and New Zealand also hold talks at a summit with major global tech companies in Paris on Wednesday as governments around the world consider new rules to curb hate speech and harmful content online.

The latest Facebook revelations from Haugen claim the US-based social media network harms children’s mental health and creates divisions by promoting hateful and violent content.

India’s IT rules, announced in May, put in place a mechanism for social media users to report problematic content as soon as they see it, and requires companies to submit compliance reports on such complaints every month.

“We are working on strengthening our own approach to combating the threat of harmful content, we have notified the IT rules, but to really get more teeth we have to seek a change in IT law. It is already being debated and there is an internal team working on the draft, ”the official said.

The government is on a “wait and see” mode to see how the global situation develops, the official added.

After Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, reveals her identity and testifies before the U.S. Senate Trade Committee, several cases are filed for tighter regulation of social media companies.

Legislators are calling for an independent regulator with the power to screen and inspect the big tech companies, and advocating a new privacy policy so people can “opt-in” if they prefer to share their data online.

They also urge the United States to update children’s privacy laws and competition policies, and require tech companies to make their algorithms more transparent.

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