Will India set a ‘global standard’ for online social media censorship?

Will India set a ‘global standard’ for online social media censorship?

With a population of 1.4 billion, India is the second most populous country in the world.

But a new article in the Washington Post claims that India has “set a global standard for internet censorship.”

For years, a committee of executives from American technology companies and Indian officials has been meeting every two weeks in a government office to negotiate what can — and cannot — be said on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. At the “69A meetings,” as the secret gatherings were informally called, officials from India’s information, technology, security and intelligence agencies made social media posts they wanted removed, citing threats to India’s sovereignty and national security, the executives and officials who were present said. . Tech representatives have sometimes pushed back in the name of freedom of expression…

But two years ago, these interactions took a fateful turn. While officials once required the removal of a few tweets at each meeting, they now insisted on removing entire accounts, and the numbers were running into the hundreds. It is now possible to imprison executives who rejected the government’s demands, and have their companies expelled from the Indian market. New regulations were adopted that year to hold technology employees in India criminally liable for non-compliance with takedown requests, a provision that executives referred to as the “hostage rule.” After authorities sent anti-terrorism police to Twitter’s New Delhi office, Twitter moved its chief executive in India out of the country, fearing he would be arrested, former employees of the company recounted.

Indian officials say they have accomplished something long overdue: strengthening national laws to subjugate recalcitrant foreign companies… Human and digital rights advocates warn that India has mastered the use of regulations to stifle online dissent and has already inspired governments in countries as diverse as Nigeria and Myanmar, and plans to draft similar legal frameworks. , sometimes using almost identical language. India’s success in taming internet companies has unleashed a “regulatory contagion” around the world, according to Prateek Wagher, policy director at the Internet Freedom Foundation of India.

Despite the huge size of the Chinese market, companies like Twitter and Facebook were forced to move away from the country because Beijing’s rules required them to spy on users. This made India the largest potential growth market. Silicon Valley companies were already committed to doing business in India before the government started tightening its regulations, and today they say they have no choice but to comply if they want to stay there.
the mail He spoke to Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the deputy technology minister in the BJP government who is overseeing many of the new regulations, who said “The shift was really simple: we defined the laws, we defined the rules, and we said there is zero tolerance for any non-compliance with Indian law. ..

“You don’t like the law? Don’t work in India,” Chandrasekhar added. “There’s very little room to maneuver.”

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