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Our commitment to privacy is unimpeachable, says Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in regards to the outcry over the new IT rules imposed by the government. “Are they permitting free flow of speech and expression by not obeying the mandate of India’s Constitution and following self-made unilateral regulations?” he asked.
Prasad, in an interaction with The Indian Express, said the social media platforms decide as to which content will go and which will not, or which account will be closed. “Our track record of upholding democratic values is too well known to them. But if you have double standard for India vis-à-vis other big countries, this is plainly not acceptable. The issue is of digital sovereignty of India.”
The Union Minister pointed out that the new guidelines did not appear suddenly. He said there were court orders on the same and Parliamentary committees have deliberated on the issue. “There is a Supreme Court order of September 24, 2019, which very categorically says that various messages and content being shared and spread on platforms, run by intermediaries, are harmful and can spread violence. The court has noted that social media has become a source of large amount of pornography, drugs, weapons and other contraband. And it is due to these specific circumstances that it is imperative that there is a properly framed regime to find out the persons, institutions or bodies who are the originators of such content or messages.”
In regards to intermediaries, Prasad said they cannot be prevented from making statements. He explained that the government is only asking the social media intermediaries to give ordinary users voice, a redressal mechanism to the victims of abuse and misuse of social media.
“Social media intermediaries earn good revenue here. Some of them have the biggest user base in India. But for grievance, you ask users to come to America. It is not only surprising, but shows a kind of a wavering in the commitment to users,” he highlighted. “The second thing we have noticed is their reluctance to appear before Indian Parliamentary committees. They can appear before American Congress. Even the owners of these platforms appear before Senate committees and House of Commons, but not here. They are welcome to do business in India, but they will have to follow the laws and Constitution of India.”