At a press conference to announce the new draft rules for social media, digital news and OTT platforms, the government revealed the user base of some top social media platforms operating in the country.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed that WhatsApp has 53 crore or 530 million users in India followed by YouTube with 44.8 crore (448 million) users. He further added that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have 41 crore (410 million), 21 crore (210 million) and 1.75 crore (17.5 million) users in the country respectively.
Prasad was addressing the conference after introducing the new rules — Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021– to regulate online intermediaries including social media apps, digital news platforms and OTT companies.
Of late, the government had also resisted the activism of global celebrities and activists supporting farmer protest in India.
It reacted sharply to global celebrity Rihana and climate activist Greta Thunberg’s tweet in support of the protest by farmers over India’s new farm laws. A Bengaluru based environmental activist Disha Ravi was arrested for editing a toolkit that Thunberg had shared on Twitter. Earlier this week, Ravi was granted bail by a Delhi Court.
“The government welcomes criticism and right to dissent but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media,” said Prasad at the conference.
According to Prasad, the social media platforms upon being asked either by the court or by the government authority will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or a message.
The new code mandates social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to remove or disable access to particular information, or any assistance to the government agency as early as possible, but in no case later than thirty-six hours from receipt of the court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency.
As far as providing the information is concerned, social media companies have to furnish information under its control or possession or any assistance to the government body who is lawfully authorised for investigative or protective or cybersecurity activities. Such purposes include verification of identity along with prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution, of offences under any law for the time being in force, or for cybersecurity incidents.