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The new IT rules for social media companies, which went into effect on Wednesday, are aimed at making digital platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and Google - which have seen a massive increase in usage in India over the last few years - more accountable and responsible for the content they host. These new laws stipulate that ‘significant' intermediaries must have a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person, and a grievance officer, all of whom must be Indian citizens. The new rules also require these platforms to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours, and take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.
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Here's how social media giants have reacted to India's new digital rules. WhatsApp has moved the Delhi High Court against the new IT rules for intermediaries, saying these would violate privacy.
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Facebook has said that the company aims to comply with the provisions of the new intermediary guidelines and is working towards it.
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In the midst of its feud with the government over the "Congress toolkit" row, Twitter today broke its silence on new digital restrictions, expressing concern about "the possible harm to freedom of expression" and "police intimidation techniques." The social media network reiterated its commitment to India as a vital market, but signaled its growing concern about the government's recent actions and potential threats to freedom of expression that may result.
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"We are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve," a spokesperson said. "We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules. We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation. We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian Government and believe it is critical to adopt a collaborative approach."
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What Google's Sundar Pichai said on India's new digital rules "It's obviously early days and our local teams are very engaged. We always respect local laws in every country we operate in and we work constructively. We have clear transparency reports, when we comply with government requests, we highlight that in our transparency reports," Pichai said in a virtual conference with select reporters from Asia Pacific. He added that a free and open internet is "foundational", and that India has long traditions of that.
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As a company, we are very clear about the values of a free and open internet and the benefits it brings and we advocate for it, and we engage constructively with regulators around the world, and we participate in these processes, I think it's a part of how we learn." He added that the company respects the legislative processes, and in cases where it needs to push back, it does so. "It's a balance we have struck around the world," he said. Pichai noted that technology is touching society in deeper and broader ways and the landscape is evolving at a fast pace.
Image Credit: Insta/sundarpichai