“It is a step in the right direction. The government has shown it is really serious about clamping down on misinformation and any disinformation that impinges on the national security. The onus lies on social media platforms to take corrective measures now,” said Saurabh Shukla, founder of NewsMobile, a news and fact-checking website.
While announcing the rules on Thursday, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said concerns had been raised over the rampant spread of fake news on social media.
Social media platforms are now mandated to remove unlawful content within 36 hours of an order by a court or the government. They must appoint compliance and grievance officers in India and are expected to identify originators of flagged messages.
However, people familiar with the matter said messaging giant WhatsApp is likely to reiterate its stance on privacy and end-to-end encryption.
According to Shukla, appointing local compliance and grievance officers increases accountability.
“People who have a grievance can now reach out to a human who can respond to their grievances,” Shukla added.
Jency Jacob, managing director at fact-checker BOOM, said while platforms need to clarify how they will trace originators of flagged messages, appointing resident Indian compliance officials is fair.
“If you are running a huge user base in India, then you need to have some amount of compliances in place. On paper, it sounds good that the social media platforms have been given timelines to remove objectionable content. The implementation will have to be figured out,” he added.
Rakesh Dubbudu, founder of Factly said asking platforms to be more proactive and to cooperate with law enforcement, especially when there is scope for harm and violence are welcome.
“A lot of times, users are in the dark about community guidelines and rules and why certain actions were taken. All platforms should be transparent about any user action,” he said. “In cases where there are law-and-order issues and threat of harm linked to misinformation, it will help, but a large section of misinformation is linked to politics. I don’t know if the government is likely to request for the first originator of information in matters of political misinformation.”