Following the uproar of the opposition parties over the violence unleashed in Northeast Delhi, central government mulls issuing fresh guidelines to control the social media platforms which were, according to the government, the “tools to propagate hate and spread inflammatory messages”.
According to a report by The Indian Express, a meeting of officials on Tuesday which was held by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) discussed this issue and social media firms were “criticised severely” as well. The officials from ministries Information and Technology, Home Affairs, and Information and Broadcasting, along with Delhi police officers and executives from Google, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and TikTok, attended the meeting.
Amid the social media platforms, Twitter faced much stronger criticism for slower and lower compliance rate with the Delhi Police Commissioner referring to the specific riot-related tweets doing rounds on February 23 and 24, which purportedly led to rumour mongering.
“Many issues were discussed and the government was clear that it did not want these platforms to peddle fake news and spread hatred, like what happened in the last few days (in Delhi),” a top official of the central government was quoted as saying.
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“We have held some meetings and we need to take some measures now. There will be some fresh guidelines for them. We are in discussions and we might have to issue guidelines with stringent message,” a top official from the IT Ministry told The Indian Express.
These regulations are to be part of government’s decision to take “tangible” and “visible” steps to curtail such incidents in future. A union minister commented that though the government is aware that it cannot ban any social media platform, it feels that certain regulations have to be introduced.
Along with the decision of the central government, Delhi government has also come up with full-page advertisements on leading dailies detailing how to become a part of the surveillance system. It also says that sharing of “inflammatory messages” on WhatsApp can land you in jail up to for three years.
“If any individual shares or forwards messages or videos on WhatsApp or any other social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) which are inflammatory in nature or incite communal tensions, then the guilty will have to serve jail term up to three years,” reads the ad.
If someone finds such an “inflammatory message”, they can inform the authority and for this purpose, the Delhi government has even shared a helpline number and an email address. “If you find anyone sharing communally inflammatory messages or videos on WhatsApp or any social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), then immediately send the screenshot or the video to us on the number given below,” said the ad.
The ad by the Committee on peace and harmony, Delhi Legislative Assembly, even adds that “if an FIR is lodged on the basis of your complaint, then you will also get a reward of Rs 10,000.”
Every month, government officials hold meetings with social media companies in which they show the breakdown of each company’s compliance rate with section 69A of Information Technology Act (IT Act). IT Act gives the power to the government to order removal of online content. In this month, among the social media platforms, Twitter had the lowest compliance rate, while Facebook-WhatsApp had the highest compliance rate. Google and TikTok came after Facebook.
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