India tightens social media restrictions in the US

The Indian government's standoff with Twitter and Facebook continues as new rules come into effect within three months forcing social networks, online streaming services and digital information services to remove any content that is the subject of a complaint from an individual or organization are within 24 hours.

They must also disclose the origin of a “malicious tweet or message” if an Indian court or government requires it.

In defense of the move, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recalled Twitter's refusal to remove posts related to violent farmers' protests in New Delhi in January, despite the network's support during the attack by pro-Trump activists The US Congress in Washington had acted differently twenty days earlier by deleting accounts.

“When the US Congress is attacked on Capitol Hill, social media supports the police action, but when there is a violent attack on Lal Qila (Red Fort in Delhi), there is a double standard,” he described such a policy as ” unacceptable”.

On January 26, a national holiday in India, demonstrations against agricultural reforms degenerated into riots across the capital, with farmers storming the Red Fort, the symbol of India's independence.

The Hindu nationalist government then ordered Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts and tweets that supported the protests.

Twitter has permanently suspended some accounts and briefly suspended others, much to the government's dismay.

Under the new rules, social networks will also have to appoint a compliance officer and a “complaint redressal officer,” both based in India.

At the same time, a “self-regulatory body” headed by a government-appointed official has the power to warn or censor a platform, force it to apologize, or include a “disclaimer” or “liability clause” regarding the content.

“The government accepts criticism and the right to disagree, but it is important that social network users have a forum in which they can express their grievances against the abusive use of these social networks,” the minister added.

A Facebook spokesperson responded by saying that the American company is “an ally of India” and that it will “carefully review these new rules.”

“As a company, we have always made it clear that we welcome regulations that provide guidance for addressing the internet's biggest challenges,” he continued.

The announcement of these new measures was met with concern by some defenders of online freedom of expression in India.

“I find these new rules extremely worrying because they regulate freedom of expression and privacy without any legal basis,” said Nikhil Pahwa, founder of an internet news portal and cyber activist.

India regularly resorts to blocking internet access, as was the case during farmers' protests, to restrict information sharing during unrest.

In the 2020 World Press Freedom Ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries.