Nasscom urges govt to ensure freedom of expression embedded in new guidelines

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The guidelines require platforms to trace messages and tweets back to the original sender. (AP)The guidelines require platforms to trace messages and tweets back to the original sender. (AP) 2 min read . Updated: 26 Feb 2021, 12:14 PM IST Prasid Banerjee Privacy advocates have said that the guidelines, while important, would infringe on users’ freedom of expression and make it difficult for platforms to use end-to-end encryption to protect user privacy

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has urged the government to ensure that freedom of expression is built into the design principles of its new intermediary guidelines.

“The government has emphasised that the new rules will not curb creativity and freedom of speech and expression of the citizens and NASSCOM would urge the government to ensure that this is the design principle as these guidelines are implemented. The call for responsible freedom and ensuring that no information or data is misleading is key for a diverse democracy like India to curb the widespread issue of fake news," the industry body, which has companies like Microsoft, Amazon etc. among its members, said in a statement.

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“From a user perspective, strengthening the grievance redress mechanisms, the option of voluntary self-verification of user accounts and the right to receive an explanatory notification on removal or disablement of access and to seek remedy against the action being taken by the intermediaries should be helpful. This will require the right implementation and should not become onerous for the social media platforms," the statement added.

The statement comes in response to the government’s new intermediary guidelines, which were announced by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a press conference yesterday. Privacy advocates have said that the guidelines, while important, would infringe on users’ freedom of expression and make it difficult for platforms to use end-to-end encryption to protect user privacy.

The guidelines require platforms to trace messages and tweets back to the original sender. There are also regulations to trace the first point of origin for such messages within India. Many have also said that the guidelines are an overreach by the government, and go beyond the existing ambit of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

“In their current form, these Rules will undeniably harm freedom of expression, privacy and security and could be subject to legal challenges. Provisions like traceability of encrypted content, harsh content take down timelines and automated content filtering are blunt and disproportionate to the intention behind these changes. Given the many new provisions, these rules should be withdrawn and be accompanied by wide ranging and participatory consultations with all relevant stakeholders prior to notification," said Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor, Mozilla Corporation.

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