India’s Supreme Court has put the government on a timer to curb misuse of social media

Indian Supreme Court has given the government three weeks to submit an affidavit outlining its efforts to build guidelines for social media BCCL

  • Supreme Court has issued a three week deadline for the Indian government to submit an affidavit outlining its efforts to curb misuse of social media.
  • The Court has also asked the government for a timeline on when social media guidelines will be ready for implementation.
  • The bench stated that the Supreme Court and the High Court aren’t the correct forums for such discourse.
  • The guidelines should include measures on how to trace messages back to their original senders.
Online crime is a growing menace and the Indian Supreme Court has given the government three weeks to disclose steps taken towards the thwarting misuse of social media so far.

The Supreme Court bench, led by Justice Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, has also asked the government to lay out the timeframe for when these guidelines will be ready to implement.

The Supreme Court and the High Court aren’t the right forums to deal with issues of social media, according to Gupta, which is why the government needs to step in and have a policy in place.
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The guidelines should outline how information can be traced back to its original sender in order to prevent illegal activities, according to Bar & Bench report. At the same time, the bench also pointed out that there needs to be a balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the sovereignty of the state.

The issue of encryption

Platforms like WhatsApp — recently under the radar for facilitating the sharing of misinformation and fake news — have told the government that tracking messages back to their original senders isn’t possible because of end-to-end encryption.

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This means that no one but the sender of the message and the receipt know the content. Even, WhatsApp can’t see the messages, according to the company.

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal representing Facebook and WhatsApp, pointed out that while this may be an obstacle, it’s only restricted to a select few social networking platforms.

Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that even if end-to-end encryption is in place, there are workarounds. A professor from IIT Madras has already filed an affidavit with the Madras High Court on a possible solution to the problem. Even the government has been looking into digital fingerprinting as a way to trace messages without breaking encryption.

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The Supreme Court will hold its next hearing on the matter on 22 October 2019. Before then, the Madras High Court is scheduled to hold its hearing on 1 October 2019.

See also:
After Indian government, IIT professor points out how WhatsApp messages can be traced

WhatsApp faces international pressure to hand over access to encrypted chats

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