Mozilla, GitHub and Cloudflare fear ‘automated censorship’ ⁠in India’s new internet laws

  • India’s intermediary liability rules will be notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology by January 15, 2020.
  • Companies like Mozilla, GitHub and Cloudflare have written an open letter to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad requesting him to make the final draft public for consultation.
  • Recently, Wikimedia too had written an open letter to the IT Minister, asking for the final draft to be released.
The proposed changes to India’s intermediary liability rules has got India’s internet companies worried. And more so because the government is set to notify these rules by January 15, 2020.

Companies like Mozilla, GitHub and Cloudflare have written an open letter to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad requesting him to make the final draft public for consultation. “The last version of these amendments which were available in the public domain suggest that the rules will promote automated censorship, tilt the playing field in favour of large players, substantially increase surveillance, and prompt a fragmentation of the internet in India that would harm users while failing to empower Indians,” the companies wrote in the open letter.

According to the last draft available online, under the amended intermediary liability rules, the government has asked that any intermediary with over 50 lakh users in India will have to be incorporated in India with a permanent registered office and address.

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The government can also ask for content takedown within 24 hours, and also request for information as necessary for cyber security reasons, within 72 hours of communication.

In the open letter, the companies have said the tight deadlines “ pose significant implementation and freedom of expression challenges”.

Under the proposed changes, companies will also be asked to deploy technology based automated tools to identify, remove or disable public access to unlawful information or content.

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India’s internet companies believe that this will upend the careful balance which holds companies responsible only when they are aware of such illegal acts.

“The technically infeasible requirement to “proactively” monitor platforms for “all unlawful content”, which would lead to overcensorhsip and an untenabale increase in liability, especially for small and medium service providers across the internet,” said the letter.

Recently, Wikimedia too had written an open letter to the IT Minister, asking for the final draft to be released. Wikipedia, which allows users to create content online easily is also worried that the bill’s traceability requirements will pose as “a serious threat to freedom of expression”.

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See Also:
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