Internet can cause unimaginable disruption to democratic polity, Centre tells SC

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) told the top court that though technology had led to economic growth and societal development, there was also an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news and anti-national activities. Photo for representation purpose only.   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan

Internet has emerged as a potent tool that can cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity, the government has told the Supreme Court.

The Ministry of Information Technology said in an affidavit that rules to regulate social media intermediaries needed to be revised. The regulatory regime had to be ramped up considering the “ever-growing threats to individual rights and the nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security.”

It said the new Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules would be notified by January 15, 2020. The affidavit was in response to a September 24 order of the court to appraise it of the status of framing of the new rules and the timeline for their notification.

The order came on a petition filed by the social media giant Facebook for transfer of pleas concerning the linking of social media accounts to Aadhaar. Social media intermediaries like Facebook and WhatsApp have argued that this would lead to loss of individual privacy. The Tamil Nadu government — one of the cases is pending in the Madras High Court — has argued that the social media should be more transparent and cooperative with the police for purposes of crime detection, national security, etc.

The Centre said Internet had led to development, but it had also been a platform for spreading hate and fake news. Internet had led to an exponential rise in “anti-national activities.”

The government said in the “last few years there has been an enormous increase in the use of social media, and with lower Internet tariffs, availability of smart devices and last-mile connectivity, more and more people in India are becoming part of the Internet/social media platforms.”

“If on the one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/social media platforms,” the Centre told the apex court.

The government said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had addressed the Rajya Sabha on July 26 last year on the issue of misuse of social media platform and propagation of fake news. He had assured the House that the government would initiate a number of measures, including amendments in the existing Intermediaries Guidelines Rules, 2011, to make intermediaries more liable for the content that was published, transmitted, etc, on their platforms.

The government said detailed discussions were on at various levels, including inter-ministerial, as the issue was complex and concerned the functioning of netizens, government departments/ministries, social media platforms, messaging platforms, websites and mobile apps. The government said efforts were on to make the Rules “effective, robust and comprehensive.”

The case is scheduled to be heard on October 22.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 3:40:11 AM |

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