India's new guidelines could become a global playbook 

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: Feb 25, 2021, 11.37 PM(IST)

Social media Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

There are new rules for streaming services as well. They will be overseen by a self-regulatory body headed by a retired supreme court or high court judge

The dream run of tech giants in India could soon be over as the government has unveiled a new set of guidelines. Content will now be regulated. Dispute resolution will be swift and trouble-makers will not be protected. This is India's playbook to rein in big tech. It's a template that you will probably see more and more countries adopt. 

The battles lines have been drawn after more than a decade of unchecked expansion. The walls are closing in on tech giants. The latest blow was dealt by India. New guidelines have been introduced. These tough ones will rein in the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Three months from now, the new digital regime will take effect. 

it will make the Indian state, a stakeholder in content regulation. The full draft is yet to be released but a few provisions stand out. 

First, the removal of objectionable content and complaints will have to be registered in 24 hours. Following which, there is a 15-day deadline for redressal but if the content is highly provocative or hurtful as it must be taken down in 24 hours. 

These complaints will be compiled by a grievance officer, who must reside in India. All social media companies will have to produce a monthly compliance report. How many complaints were registered? In how many cases action was taken? 

They can't protect the trouble-makers as well. If an Indian court or the government wants to trace content on social media, the companies will have to take names. Where did the objectionable content emerge? Which accounts amplified it? Information that they have always denied. Big tech does not have a fixed yardstick. In Europe and the US, they often submit to government scrutiny. 

Elsewhere, they run riot, stealing private data and fuelling propaganda. 

Ravi Shankar Prasad, law minister, India said, "Every social media platforms are welcome in India, but, with utmost respect, I would like to say that there shouldn't be double standards. If an attack is there on Capitol Hill in Congress, then social media supports the police action but if there's an aggressive attack on the Red Fort, the symbol of India's freedom where our Prime Minister hoists the National Flag, you have double standards. this is plainly unacceptable." 

There are new rules for streaming services as well. They will be overseen by a self-regulatory body headed by a retired supreme court or high court judge. 

The content will no longer be one size fits all. There will be five categories based on age, such as universal, aged 7+, 13+, 16+ and adult. There will be an exhaustive age verification process for adult content.  

These guidelines are in a way unprecedented in most parts of the world. Social media is internet's wilderness, a land beyond laws. For years, tech giants have fought against checks but now the movement has gone global. Compliance is the only option. Facebook's reaction to the new guidelines says it all. "We have always been clear as a company that we welcome regulations that set guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges on the internet," it said. 

India's new guidelines could become a global playbook. One thing's for sure, tech giants are no more the darlings of the internet but the question is can they avoid becoming its scourge? 

Read in App