Govt moves to access and trace all ‘unlawful’ content online

• The government is proposing draft amendments to rules governing content, The Indian Express has learnt.

• The proposed amendments to rules under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act make it mandatory for online platforms to “proactively” deploy technology, which would enable a ferreting of content seen as “unlawful”.

• They also require end-to-end encryption to be broken so that the origin of messages can be traced.

Key highlights of the draft amendments policy

• In the draft of The Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018, Rule 3(9) requires “intermediaries”, or online platforms, to “deploy technology based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls, for proactively identifying or removing or disabling access to unlawful information or content”.

• The insertion of a new Rule 3(4) activates a pro-active monthly notification across intermediaries to warn users repeatedly. Rule 3(5), which will introduce a “traceability requirement”, will in effect require a platform to break end-to-end encryption and introduce systems for retaining data and information specific to each bit of data, including WhatsApp messages.

• The five-page draft rules were discussed Friday by an official of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) with others from the Cyber Law Division, and representatives of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ShareChat, SEBI and The Internet Service Providers Association of India.

• The proposed changes would mean that social media platforms with more than “50 lakh users” would be liable to help the government “within 72 hours” of a query.

• They would be expected to appoint a ‘Nodal person of Contact.for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure compliance”.

• The draft amendments envisage that online platforms will keep a record of “unlawful activity” for a period of “180 days”, double the 90 days in the older version.

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Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

Prelims level: Various sections mentioned

Mains level: Menace of fake news in India and measures to curb it

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