BIG TECH IN CHECK
13th September, 2022 Economy
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- Amid the growing influence and dominance of social media companies, the United States has identified six key principles to keep their power in check.
Principles of US and other details
- The areas range from competition; privacy; youth mental health; misinformation and disinformation; illegal and abusive conduct, including sexual exploitation; and algorithmic discrimination and lack of transparency.
- These principles are in line with global scepticism around the influence of social media platforms as countries around the world, including India, look to check the dominance of these platforms.
- One of the key principles listed by the US is to remove special protection available to social media platforms under Section 230 of the US’ Communications Decency Act (CDA). This section is similar to Section 79 of India’s Information Technology Act, 2000, (IT Act) which classifies social media platforms as intermediaries and broadly shields them from legal action based on content users post on their platform.
- Both these regulations offer social media platforms something called ‘safe harbour’. The idea is that since platforms cannot control at the first instance what users post on their site, they should not be held legally liable for any objectionable content they host as long as they agree to take such content down when flagged by the government or various courts.
- America rightly called for “fundamental reforms” to Section 230 after experts highlighted the “magnitude of illegal and abusive conduct hosted or disseminated by platforms. But currently shielded from being held liable and lack adequate incentive to reasonably address, such as child sexual exploitation, cyberstalking, and non-consensual distribution of intimate images of adults.
- In February 2021, India had rightly notified extensive changes to its social media regulations in the form of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 (IT Rules) which placed significant due diligence requirements on large social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These include appointing key personnel to handle law enforcement requests and user grievances, enabling identification of the first originator of the information on its platform under certain conditions, and deploying technology-based measures on a best-effort basis to identify certain types of content.
- Its important to make the Internet “open, safe and trusted, and accountable.
- India is also working on a complete overhaul of its technology policies and is expected to soon come out with a replacement of its IT Act, 2000, which will look at ensuring net neutrality, data privacy, and algorithmic accountability of social media platforms.