Donald Trump's social media diktat may not shift India’s stand

New Delhi: US President Donald Trump’s executive order diluting immunity enjoyed by social media companies is unlikely to change India’s stand on making firms such as Twitter and Facebook more responsible and accountable for content posted on their platforms.

India has been facing a challenge of misinformation on a large scale and has had to deal with situations such as mob lynching due to unchecked hate speech and fake news on social media. This has made New Delhi propose key policy changes to legislation that puts the onus of checking content largely on social media companies.

India and the US, though, are reconsidering the immunity for different reasons, said Udbhav Tiwari, policy advisor with Mozilla.

“While India wants to compel platforms to carry out better content moderation and cooperate with law enforcement, the US seems to think that current content moderation practices are negatively impacting political neutrality and wants to rein in such practices,” Tiwari said.

Indian policy making is unlikely to be immediately influenced since most large social media companies are based in the US and their product policies are made keeping in mind American laws, he said, although this policy change may have “far reaching ramifications globally” if it goes through. There is also a key difference in the US and Indian law on the kind of actions for which immunity is granted to social media platforms. The US provides Good Samaritan protections under Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act by explicitly allowing intermediaries to restrict content on certain grounds.

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On the other hand, India provides immunity to intermediaries under Section 79(2) of the IT Act, only on the condition that platforms do not modify content in any form. India does not provide any explicit Good Samaritan exceptions.

Industry experts expect Trump’s executive order to face widespread legal challenges. The order, signed on Thursday, came after Twitter flagged Trump’s tweets with a fact check warning, alerting users to his claims about mail-in ballots. “They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said while signing the order. “There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction.” Twitter has been unrelenting in its approach though and called the order an attempt to unilaterally erode and threaten the future of online speech and internet freedom.



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