India: Social media platforms may end up being suspended as new policy set to kick in

Web Report/New Delhi
Filed on May 25, 2021

(Reuters file)

None of them have complied with the guidelines issued by the government in February.

Global social media giants including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, who have hundreds of millions of active users in India, are facing a major challenge as the deadline for appointing top officials in the country ends on Tuesday. None of them have complied with the guidelines issued by the government in February.

Social media intermediary rules 2021, which come into force on Wednesday, aim to regulate digital content featuring a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework. Social media companies with more than 5 million users in India have to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person.

While these social media behemoths have millions of users (Facebook has an estimated 300 million active monthly users in India, Instagram has 120 million, and Twitter about 18 million), they have virtually no presence in India in terms of designated officials who are accessible to the government or to their users.

“We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted in a report in The Economic Times on Tuesday. “We are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies.”

The Indian IT ministry has objected to the frequent claims by these players that they need to get clearance from their headquarters in the US before complying with the regulations. The ministry wants the social media sites to file monthly reports about the grievances filed against their content, how many were taken up and the pending status.

Government sources claim that the social media firms do huge business in India, earning substantial amounts, yet refuse to cooperate with the government guidelines. If they do not adhere to the new rules from Wednesday, the social media firms will forfeit their status as intermediaries and lose legal immunity that they enjoyed all these years. People unhappy with the content on the platforms can drag them to court and file expensive suits.

Already, Twitter is feeling the heat in Delhi, where police officials are conducting raids on their offices, seeking details about the heads of the India operations and probing the case involving BJP leader Sambit Patra, whose tweet was marked as ‘manipulated media.’

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