India strengthens regulatory hold Facebook, WhatsApp with new rules

India announced on Thursday new rules to regulate content on social media making Facebook , WhatsApp and others more responsible for legal requests for quick post removal and sharing of details about message authors. The Rules: Part of an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government to tighten the leash on Big Tech – come later Twitter recently ignored government orders to delete content related to protests by farmers.

India is the largest market by number of users for both Facebook and WhatsApp. The new rules enacted by the government, called Guidelines for intermediaries and the Code of Ethics for digital media, will be legally enforceable.

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They will require large social media companies to establish a complaints redress mechanism and within three months appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement. Social media companies should be “more responsible and trustworthy,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, the information technology minister, told reporters, outlining the rules.

Large social media companies will be forced to remove content as soon as possible if they receive a legal order and within no more than 36 hours, according to the rules. The government also said that companies must provide assistance in probes or other cybersecurity-related incidents within 72 hours of receiving the request. They must also disable any post that portrays an individual in a sexual act or behavior within one day, the regulation said, a draft of which was reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

IT Minister Prasad also told reporters that the rules would require companies to disclose the originator of a message or post when legally ordered to do so. The move, industry sources say, will worry WhatsApp, which has faced increasing pressure from New Delhi to share details about the people spreading disinformation via its platform.

Facebook he said he welcomes the rules prescribing ways to address challenges on the web. “The details of rules like these are important and we will study the new rules carefully,” a statement read. WhatsApp and Twitter declined to comment.

RISK OF CENSOR Tech companies are subject to stricter scrutiny around the world. Facebook faced a global backlash last week from publishers and politicians after blocking news feeds in Australia in a dispute with the government over revenue sharing.

This prompted Australia to make extreme changes in a law passed Thursday to ensure that Google and Google Alphabet Inc. Facebook paying media companies for content, a step countries like Britain and Canada want to follow. India’s rules will also require video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video to rank content into five categories based on the age of users, the government said.

Online media will also be regulated as part of the new rules, with the information and broadcasting ministry setting up a control system, the government added. Apar Gupta, advocacy executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, said the new rules for digital media portals and video streaming platforms pose risks to free speech.

“To solve the problems in these areas, the government has taken an approach that carries the risks of political control and censorship,” he said.

(This story was not edited by our team of editors and is generated from a feed.)

News Highlights:

  • The Rules: Part of an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government to tighten the leash on Big Tech – come later Twitter recently ignored government orders to delete content related to protests by farmers. India is the largest market by number of users for both Facebook and WhatsApp. The new rules enacted by the government, called Guidelines for intermediaries and the Code of Ethics for digital media, will be legally enforceable. They will require large social media companies to establish a complaints redress mechanism and within three months appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.
  • India strengthens regulatory hold Facebook, WhatsApp with new rules