India’s telecom regulator is mulling regulation of messaging services platforms like Whatsapp and Hike

India’s telecom regulator is mulling regulation of messaging services platforms like Whatsapp and Hike

  • Telecom regulators on Monday rolled out a discussion paper on whether Over-the-top (OTT) services - Whatsapp, Skype and Hike – should be regulated.
  • The paper mainly aims at economic and security matters since such apps are sometimes ‘misused’ to spread harmful rumours.
  • India’s telecom companies have been demanding the OTT services to also come under regulatory framework.
India’s telecom regulator may regulate messaging services like WhatsApp, Hike and Skype in response to security concerns and possible misuse of such apps, according to media reports.

These widely used messaging services, also known as Over The Top (OTT) services are the ones accessible over the internet and rely on network operators for use.

The discussion paper titled, ‘Regulatory Framework for Over The Top Communications Services’ will analyse possible regulation and its implementation, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India reportedly said.

TRAI has invited telecom industry’s views to identify which apps should be regulated, taking into consideration the cost, benefits and security concerns. Telecom companies have been asking for OTT service providers to be brought under regulatory framework because they have been operating without the usual telecom licensing obligations.

Telecom regulators have also stated that OTT services lack interoperability leading to dominance and accused them of abusing market power – a WhatsApp user can not connect over the call with another user on a different platform.

Currently, the OTT service providers are governed by certain rules under the Information Technology Act and tax laws which are considered inadequate by the telecom industry.

The paper has also sought views on if the licensing conditions should be refined and if regulation to ensure service quality should be upgraded.

Security concerns

The apps in question have recently invited scrutiny and controversy especially as they have often been misused to spread rumours, fake news or inappropriately divulge confidential personal information, which have proved difficult to contain by cyber security experts.

OTT providers, on their part, have opposed suggestions of regulation as this would potentially curb innovation.

WhatsApp has also taken a number of initiatives in an effort to combat the issue of fake news.

It had released short clips explaining the users on how they can verify fraudulent messages.

Earlier, WhatsApp has also reportedly told Indian regulators it was in the process of building a local team in India to help in its efforts to tackle fake news.

See also:
WhatsApp has a new radio campaign to counter fake news in India
WhatsApp building India-team to curb fake news, but government is not satisfied
WhatsApp is dramatically cutting message forwarding after viral fake news led to lynchings