Over a dozen think tanks call for end of ‘digital censorship’ in India

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New Delhi: More than a dozen privateness and digital think tanks from internationally have banded collectively to publish an open letter calling for the end of ‘digital censorship’ in India.

The letter, signed by 14 not-for-profits and revealed on Friday, referred to as upon the federal government to droop the implementation of
India’s new IT rules, which got here into impact final month. These embody organisations like Electronics Frontier Foundation, Access Now, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, Internet Sans Frontières and Internet Society.

The letter requested the federal government to make public its blocking orders for web sites and social media accounts together with causes for the blocking. India ought to decide to not utilizing these orders, and rule-making powers, to curtail the rights to free speech, entry to data and privateness, it urged.

There are “troubling indicators that the Indian Government, which has already been criticised for silencing protests, criminalising dissent, and blocking access to the internet, will use the expanded powers under the new intermediary rules…to restrict online content, and chill free expression and access to information,” in response to the letter.

ET has reviewed a copy of the letter.

The Association for Progressive Communications, Centre for Democracy and Technology, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Dangerous Speech Project, International Commission of Jurists, Mnemonic, OpenNet and Reporters Without Borders, are its different signatories.

India notified the rules in February and gave these social media platforms with over 5 million customers in the nation three months to conform. The guidelines, which apply to firms comparable to Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, got here into impact on May 25. It mandates on-line platforms to have a bodily workplace in India, appoint key personnel to deal with consumer grievances and take down notices from the federal government, together with giving them a timeline of 24 hours to take away content material and 72 hours to reply with data. Platforms with end-to-end encryption like WhatsApp are required to hint the origin of messages if the investigative companies require them to.

WhatsApp
has challenged the traceability mandate in Delhi High Court, whereas Google has requested the courts
to exempt its search engine from being categorized as a important social media middleman.

“Web censorship and user data orders from the Government of India are not issued under judicial or independent administrative process; instead, they come from the unilateral dictates of executive authorities. Indian Government authorities have refused to publish any of the orders they are issuing to technology firms, asserting a broad claim of secrecy, and denying requests under India’s Right to Information Act,” it stated.

The letter additionally highlighted that the regulatory framework for digital information media additionally grants the federal government an “unprecedented, impermissible and unconstitutional” stage of management over on-line information. “The rules are beyond the scope of what the executive is authorised to do under current law,” it stated.

The liabilities on staff of the platforms, in case of non-compliance, serve to intimidate intermediaries and their staff into over-complying with overbroad mandates, to the detriment of customers’ rights, the letter stated.

It referred to as upon know-how firms and web platforms working in India to “implement effective measures to protect privacy, free expression and security, and push back on overbroad, unlawful requests and regulatory mandates.”

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