Amid the growing chorus of influence and dominance by social media companies, the United States has identified six key principles to keep its power in check. The areas range from competition; Privacy; youth mental health; misinformation and disinformation; illegal and abusive conduct, including sexual exploitation; and algorithmic discrimination and lack of transparency.
These principles are in line with global skepticism about the influence of social media platforms as countries around the world, including India, seek to revisit the dominance of these platforms.
A move to bring “greater accountability”.
“Although technology platforms can help us stay connected, create a vibrant marketplace for ideas, and open new opportunities for bringing products and services to market, they can also divide us and cause serious damage in the real world,” said the white House in a statement after convening a discussion involving experts and practitioners about the harm tech platforms could cause.
It called for clear rules on how to deal with competition issues, saying a small number of dominant internet platforms are using their power to “exclude market participants from engaging in annuity searches and collecting sensitive personal information that they can use to their own advantage.” “. . The White House should also set clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer and retain our personal information, including limits on targeted advertising.
A Rethink on Social Media Platform Immunity: US vs. India
One of the key principles listed by the White House is the removal of special protections for social media platforms under Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act (CDA). This section is similar to Section 79 of India’s Information Technology Act, 2000, (IT Act), which classifies social media platforms as intermediaries and largely protects them from legal action based on content that users post on their platform.
Both regulations provide a so-called “safe haven” for social media platforms. The idea is that since platforms cannot primarily control what users post on their site, they should not be legally liable for objectionable content they host, as long as they agree to remove such content if they do be reported by the government or various courts. Because social media platforms are generally viewed as critical tools of expression, Safe Harbor is typically viewed as a core principle for enabling freedom of expression on these platforms.
However, the White House has called for “fundamental reforms” of Section 230 after experts highlighted the “level of illegal and abusive conduct hosted or disseminated by platforms, but for which they are not currently held liable and for which they do not have adequate incentive.” have appropriate such as child sexual exploitation, cyberstalking and non-consensual dissemination of intimate adult images”.
In February 2021, India had notified major changes to its social media regulations in the form of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 (IT Rules), which imposed significant due diligence requirements on major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, including the appointment of key personnel in response to requests from Handle law enforcement and user complaints, allow identification of the first originator of information on its platform under certain conditions, and use best-effort technology-based measures to identify certain types of content.
Social media companies have objected to some of the provisions in the IT Rules, and WhatsApp has also filed a lawsuit over a requirement to identify the first sender of a message. One of the reasons the platform may need to trace the originator is if a user has shared child sexual abuse material on their platform. However, WhatsApp has claimed that the requirement could dilute encryption security on its platform and jeopardize personal messages of millions of Indians.
In June this year, the IT Department proposed further changes to IT regulations to make the Internet “open, secure and trustworthy and accountable”. One of the most controversial proposals is the creation of state-backed grievance committees, which would have the power to review and overturn content moderation decisions made by platforms.
India is also working on a complete overhaul of its technology policies and is expected to soon release a replacement for its 2000 IT Act, which deals with ensuring net neutrality, privacy and algorithmic accountability of social media platforms.