The Internet Society (ISOC) has raised concerns about India’s proposed intermediary guidelines under the Information Technology Act.
In an open letter to Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Ravi Shankar Prasad, ISOC has said, “In pursuing the goal of curbing online misinformation and illegal content through content filtering requirements, the proposed amendments would put the security of the Internet and its users, and the future of a digital India at greater risk.” The new rules are likely to be notified by January 15, 2020.
The ISOC also shared that by tying intermediaries’ protection from liability to their ability to monitor communications being sent across their platforms or systems, the amendments would limit the use of end-to-end encryption and encourage others to weaken existing security measures.
“With end-to-end encryption, there is no way for the service provider to access its users’ decrypted content. This means that services using end-to-end encryption cannot provide the level of monitoring required in the proposed amendments,” the letter said.
According to ISOC, there is no way to create “exceptional access” for some without weakening the security of the system for all. “The content monitoring requirements in the proposed amendments would have grave unintended consequences on the security of the Internet, the Indian economy and Internet users,” the letter added.
The Internet Society is a nonprofit organisation founded in 1992. Headquartered in the US, ISOC is a global organisation that works towards ensuring that the internet stays open and transparent.
The Proposed Amendments
The draft had proposed that intermediaries should deploy technology-based automated tools for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content.
It also said that intermediaries with more than 50 lakh users in India should be incorporated under Indian law and have a permanent registered office in India, along with an India-based nodal officer.
According to Information Technology(IT) Act 2000, the term ‘Intermediary’ includes telecom service providers, network service providers, internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online-auction sites, online-marketplaces and cyber cafes.
Meanwhile, India’s proposed draft amendments to the rules regulating social media and internet companies under Section 79 of the IT Act in 2018, also known as intermediary guidelines, may be selective in its regulations.
While the original idea was to make social media firms and internet companies more accountable for the content that they host, new reports suggest the government may actually implement monitoring measures and takedown rules selectively, and many may apply only to big social media firms such as Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, Twitter, sparing the likes of Amazon and Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and other OTT platforms.
The government has been stern about the need for internet content regulation across sectors till now. The censorship suggested by the government largely includes content that is banned by Indian courts or disrespectful to the national emblem and flag. It is also concerned about content that outrages religious sentiments, promotes terrorism or violence against the state and shows child pornography.