Online platforms must be liable, but regulations should be carefully thought through: Chandrasekhar


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Internet and social media platforms must be made liable for unlawful content, but policy makers need to guard against adopting a "brute force approach" that causes unintended censorship, Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Monday.
Acknowledging the role of Internet in connecting people globally and allowing access to information, he noted it had also "created opportunities for mischief makers, law breakers, terrorists and a whole new group of people bent on misusing the power" to "create disharmony and violence".
"The need to address this is urgent as more and more Indians get online with almost 60 crore Indians and growing," he said in his response to Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018.
Chandrasekhar said with technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), intermediaries -- online and social media platforms -- have significantly higher capabilities of preemptively filtering unlawful content than in the past.
"While I agree that intermediaries must be liable, the approach should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, nor should it be a brute force approach that causes unintended censorship and fettering of free speech," he said.
Chandrasekhar added that therefore, intermediaries must be treated differently based on their capacity and means to filter the content.
He suggested that players be classified as Internet access and service providers, data processing and web hosting providers, Internet search engines, e-commerce intermediaries and online aggregators, and social media and messaging platforms.
Admitting that proactive obligation to remove unlawful content could lead to over-censorship, Chandrasekhar said there are still ways for regulations to address this.
"While deploying technology tools to curate the content may not be the silver bullet to curb misinformation and unlawful content, it still would be a good step towards altering the current free-for-all culture that exists in many of these platforms," he said.
The government has proposed amendments to IT rules aimed at curbing misuse of social media and online platforms, especially ahead of the general elections this year.
Among the draft amendment is a proposal requiring intermediaries to enable tracing of originators of information when required by authorised government agencies. Another proposed provision would require social media platforms to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content.
Some industry experts have warned that the planned amendments could invade personal privacy and free speech.

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First Published: Jan 28 2019 | 7:20 PM IST

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