The centre may take legal action against India-based heads of social media platforms if they do not curb online hate and misinformation, an official said on Wednesday in an indication that the government is willing to take tough action against platforms like WhatApp. Fake messages spread on WhatsApp and Facebook have resulted in a series of mob killings. Hate messages and rape threats on Twitter have pushed many to go off the social media site.
WhatsApp, which has its biggest market in India with 200 million users, has refused to comply with the government’s demand that it allows tracking of the original sender of a message.
The government has also asked the messaging platform to appoint a grievances officer. A plea reinforcing the demand is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
“There are country representatives of all online giants in India. Action would be initiated against them if they do not comply to remove online hate,” a senior bureaucrat dealing with the issue told NDTV.
This is one of the recommendations of a panel that submitted its report on lynchings to a Group of Ministers headed by home minister Rajnath Singh. And while the formal acceptance is pending, online stakeholders have been warned about this during follow-up meetings.
The committee headed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, held consultations with a cross-section of society and other stakeholders before submitting its report to the Group of Ministers, which will submit its recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a final decision, a home ministry official said.
“We have stepped up our engagements with social media platforms – WhatsApp, Facebook, twitter and YouTube. A framework has been worked out, which enables the government to give orders and remove/ block objectionable content,” he adds.
All Online Media platform stakeholders have been asked to submit compliance reports also. “If compliance is not timely and damage increases after warnings,” strict action would be initiated, the report suggests.
All social media giants have also been asked to employ NGOs and volunteers to help the government to scan online material.
A separate web portal has also been created for individuals to lodge their complaints.
“Thorough CCPWC, any private person can register a complaint if he observes anything objectionable on social media,” explained the officer. The NCRB is the nodal agency for it.
The report also gives more power to various law enforcement agencies to prevent child pornography. “We have organised various workshops and have explained to them how to deal with such delicate issues,” another senior official of north block adds.
“Social media is expanding. People do not engage with each other face to face but they do it online. So enough gatekeepers need to be employed to keep a check on what is appearing online. It is like deputing more beat constables in any area,” the officer explained.
The government’s move came after nearly 40 people were killed by mobs in nine states in the last one year. Last month, following the Supreme Court’s directives to check incidents of lynching, the Home Ministry had issued advisories to states and Union Territories.