South Asia

India's New Social Media Rules Would Strip Anonymity — When Asked — From Accounts

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Controversial new rules by the Indian government could force Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube to reveal users' identities, shattering anonymity for over 400 million people, according to Bloomberg.

The rules are expected to be published later this month. They aim for more accountability in social media, which has been a worldwide trend recently as social media companies try to combat ills such as fake news, child porn and hate speech, among other things.

In India, the government is taking things further than others have — the rules mandate a blanket, wide-spread cooperation with the government, with no warrants or judicial orders needed.

Under the proposed rules, companies such as YouTube or TikTok would be forced to help the government track down any post’s origin within 72 hours if asked. They will have to keep records on file for 180 days at minimum to aid with potential government investigations, and they’d have to establish brick and mortar offices in India to appoint a grievance officer who would act as a government liaison and handle complaints.

The guidelines were published last December and the government allowed for a period of public comment. The trade group Internet and Mobile Association of India, which includes Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon among its members, decried the new proposal, saying it would be a detriment to the rights of privacy recognized by the Supreme Court.

However, their words have apparently fallen on deaf ears as the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will likely publish the rules officially this month with few changes, according to an anonymous government official.

India has 1.3 billion residents, and the rules would cover any social media app with more than 5 million users. There are approximately 500 million internet users in India.

The rule isn’t the only blow India has dealt large tech firms as of late — it also recently proposed a tax on eCommerce firms like Amazon and others that would apply to the gross amounts charged for sales or services through those platforms.

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