I am sure by now you are aware that Indian Government released amendments to IT act last month – and some of the rules proposed, especially in case of publishing content on the web, are extremely ambiguous and open with no real clarity.
The point which specifically should concern all web publishers is Point No. 3–b, which states that Government intermediaries have right to remove any content off the web, if it is found to be grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.
Now, with such open ended words used, literally anything one publishes on the web can come under Government scanner. Additionally, publishers have to remove the content within 36 hours of of being notified by authorities!
Taking note of this, Google sent a confidential memo to Indian regulators opposing the tough restrictions laid on Internet content, excerpts of which appeared in WSJ yesterday. Google’s memo reportedly said:
"Regulations on Internet companies play a crucial role in determining how free a medium of communication the Internet will be for the world’s peoples, especially the millions of Indians who are increasingly making use of it in their everyday lives."
Google’s stand is quite logical & correct – With such open regulations, they will have to comply literally every demand made by Authorities. If anyone writes a negative remark about a Politician, or voices his / her opinion about a person, service or product and it is very much possible it may hurt / offend someone – A reason for it to be removed off the web!
After report appeared in WSJ yesterday, Indian authorities seem to have taken note and released a statement defending the rules & regulations laid down in the IT act:
These due diligence practices are the best practices followed internationally by well-known mega corporations operating on the Internet. There is no intention of the Government to acquire regulatory jurisdiction over content under these Rules…. The Government has been forward looking to create a conducive environment for the Internet medium to catapult itself onto a different plane with the evolution of the Internet. The Government remains fully committed to freedom of speech and expression and the citizen’s rights in this regard .
To which Google responded with a public state late today evening:
We believe that a free and open Internet is essential for the growth of digital economy and safeguarding freedom of expression. If Internet platforms are held liable for third party content, it would lead to self-censorship and reduce the free flow of information. The regulatory framework should ideally help protect Internet platforms and people’s abilities to access information.
Note: Both these statements have been released today and we have reproduced parts of it which have been published in WSJ.