Govt mulls shift accountability from users to social media platforms: DoT


The government is no mood to give any relaxation to social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and telegram while fixing their responsibility for ensuring the platforms remain unaffected by harmful content such as fake news, child pornography, and cyber bullying.

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Aruna Sundararajan said that the government is planning to shift the accountability from a user to a social platform. She added that users are sometimes unaware and innocently retweet or forward content, so much higher standards of accountability for platforms are needed.

The telecom secretary told this in an interview with ET.

Besides, she also emphasized the availability of full-fledged management team which must be present in the country accountable to Indian laws.

She cited the responsibility of the DoT that is to ensure the security of the content being transmitted through the network. According to Sundararajan, there are algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), which these platforms already use, that can also be deployed to curb such content.

The statement comes a few days after the Ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) is preparing to issue a third notice to WhatsApp asserting that it bring in ‘traceability’ of messages on its platform.

Amidst this, the American firm has maintained that doing so will impact end-to-end encryption and violate the privacy of users. WhatsApp said that it will weaken the privacy protections it provides.

The chat platform added that its main focus remains to educate people about misinformation and help keep people safe.

The government, however, asked if the chat platform is capable of locating specific groups and target audiences for advertisement purposes, it should be able to use similar methods to identify groups which are spreading rumours and inciting violence.

Experts believe that any decision that makes a company such as Whatsapp responsible for the content on its platform will force the messaging app to devise ways to ensure it is not misused, instead of merely passing on the blame to an erring user, who will be difficult to trace given the encryption.

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