Onus of keeping social media safe might shift from the users to whatsapp and facebook

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The government of India is planning to shift the responsibilities for ensuring that the various social media platforms are free from the harmful content from users, apart from the companies having the management teams which are based India, the telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told. It is a part of focused efforts taken by the government to make them more accountable when the security concerns.

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The committee which I’m part of is primarily looking into a few key aspects, including shift of accountability from a user to a social platform, as users are sometimes unaware and innocently retweet or forward content, so much higher standards of accountability for platforms are needed,” she said in an interview.

All the major platforms those have some significant presence in our country must be accountable to the Indian authorities. “There must be a full-fledged management team present in the country accountable to Indian laws,” she said. “It should not be, as such, one compliance officer is here only.” The government is planning for repeating this demand that WhatsApp would be putting in place the technical solutions for tracing the origins of the incendiary messages those are spread on the platform, something the Facebook-owned platform has resisted, maintaining that it goes against its privacy policy.

 

The centre is dissatisfied with the steps which are taken by the Whatsapp for curbing the menaces like the fake news. The Ministry of Electronics and IT would be drafting the letter —its third since July to the platform—asking it to design a technology-led solution to the viral messages that in the past have led to lynchings and riots.

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The government has also raised its concerns and WhatsApp has also announced the measures like limiting the forward to either five users or five groups at a time from the earlier 250, thereby identifying the forwarded messages and the publicity campaigns against some fake news. “There are algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), which these platforms already use, that can also be deployed to curb such content,” Sundararajan said.  She said that while regulation of social media apps rests with MeitY, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) ensures security of the content being transmitted through the network.
DoT can make lawful interceptions in the interests of public safety but does not propose to block social apps, she said. It’s up to the companies to have adequate precautionary measures.

It is their (companies) responsibility to put enough safeguards, especially for the use relating to fake news, child pornography and cyber bullying and take action,” she said. The department had in July sought technical inputs from stakeholders including telecom operators and internet service providers to examine options for checking popular social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and Instagram in order to curb fake news and child pornography.

The government even informed whatsapp that it won’t be allowed for setting up the payments service until and unless it establishes its office and also recruits its team in India. Sundararajan said the government wants Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and others to treat Indian consumers on par with those overseas while it looks to bring in higher standards of accountability.

Is the Indian citizen any less than an American citizen? No. Whatever safeguards and best practices you (companies) are providing globally, nothing less than should be available for India. This is the principle we are trying to establish,” Sundararajan said.