December 24, 2018:
On Monday, just days after passing a controversial order authorizing 10 central agencies to ‘snoop’ into anyone’s computer, reports suggest that the Centre has now turned its watchful gaze towards social media & online content.
As per an Indian Express report, the govt. is in the process of proposing amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act in order to fetter “unlawful content” on web.
They also require end-to-end encryption to be broken so that the origin of messages can be traced, the report said.
A new Rule 3(4) inserted into the Act activates a pro-active monthly notification across intermediaries to warn users repeatedly.
This, in effect, would enable online platforms to keep a track of user activity, including private data and conversations on WhatsApp etc.
More importantly, the proposed changes would require social media platforms to ‘help’ the govt. within 72 hours of a query.
The draft was discussed on Friday, 21 Dec, with representatives of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ShareChat, SEBI and The Internet Service Providers Association of India.
Sources told The Indian Express that the govt. is keen to be seen in action mode before the General Elections on proliferation of social media and its connection with mob violence, as seen in the recent past.
The proposed changes bring back the haunting memories of Section 66A of the IT Act, a draconian law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 in the Shreya Singhal case.
The original Section 66A of the IT Act had allowed arrests for posting ‘objectionable content’ online.
The Supreme Court had in 2015 observed that Section 66A “does not protect public order although that is the ostensible object of the provision” and said it was vague.