An Indian parliamentary panel has recommended setting up a regulatory body to treat and oversee social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as publishers, potentially opening up companies to greater liability for user-generated content.

The high-level committee made these recommendations while reviewing the Personal Data Protection Bill introduced in 2019, which seeks to protect users’ privacy and enforce strict controls on Alphabet’s companies like Google and Amazon. Collecting, processing and storing data.

Two people not authorized to speak to the media said that the panel is demanding stricter rules as the existing laws treating these social media platforms as middlemen have not done enough in terms of regulation. Also, he said that the existing provisions in the Personal Data Protection Bill are too broad.

People said the committee recommended that a regulator on the lines of the Press Council of India should be set up to regulate the content. He said a mechanism could be devised to hold social media platforms accountable for content coming from unverified accounts.

PP Choudhary, an MLA of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who heads the panel, said the recommendations of the report would be tabled in Parliament when it comes into session from November 29. He declined to discuss the contents of the report.

If these recommendations are incorporated into the amended bill and passed in Parliament, it could have far-reaching implications for the operations of public and private companies in the largest social media market globally. Offenses under the bill could be punishable with fines of up to 4 percent of the annual global turnover of social media companies, similar to penalties in the European Union.

Such moves echo similar sentiments beyond India. Lawmakers from Washington to Brussels are considering action to hold social media companies like Facebook and Google accountable for the massive amount of content they generate on their platforms every day, a view that gained momentum during the pandemic.

In India, these companies have so far enjoyed “safe harbor” status and have to be held liable for user-generated content on their platforms as long as they comply with the intermediary guidelines issued earlier this year. cannot be held. This includes setting up offices in India, appointing compliance officers and complying with the government’s requests to remove certain types of content it considers harmful.

Google declined to comment on the panel’s recommendations. Twitter and Meta’s Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

data security

India’s long haul of smartphone adoption has led to an explosion of personal and sensitive information. However, laws to protect users’ privacy have not moved at the same pace, raising concerns among activists and civic groups over potential abuses.

It took two years for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to come up with a data protection law after the Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental individual right. The parliamentary panel missed several deadlines to complete its report as lawmakers were divided on certain provisions of the bill. The panel had finalized the report on Monday.

People on the panel said legislators are in favor of expanding the bill’s coverage to non-personal data. It also recommended that around 24 months should be given to implement the provisions of the Act so that the data-related companies can make necessary changes in their policies, infrastructure and procedures.

The panel also put forward a provision that allows the government to exempt its agencies from parts of the law, although some lawmakers have objected to it.

– With the help of Abhijit Roy Chowdhury and Sarita Rai.

© 2021 Bloomberg LP


 

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