The Asia Internet Coalition, an influential industry organization representing technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Amazon, has voiced concerns over a recent amendment to India’s IT rules, saying the changes grant the local government expansive content removal authority without implementing adequate procedural safeguards.
India recently updated its IT rules, barring social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from disseminating false or misleading information about the government’s business affairs. Under the new regulations, these firms must rely on New Delhi’s own fact-checking unit to verify claims, a development that will likely impact many American giants that regard India as their largest market by users.
India is a key overseas market for Facebook, Twitter and Google. Facebook and Google have ploughed more than $15 billion in India in the past decade as they raced to win the last great growth market. Their services now reach over half a billion users in India. The firms have previously pushed back against several of New Delhi’s proposals.
The amendments lack the “sufficient procedural safeguards” to protect people’s fundamental rights to access information, said Jeff Paine, Managing Director of AIC in a statement.
Relying on a government agency such as the Press Information Bureau as the sole source to fact-check government business without giving it a clear definition or providing clear checks and balances “may lead to misuse during implementation of the law, which will profoundly infringe on press freedom,” Paine added.
The industry body recommended New Delhi to host industry-wide consultations and also “consider voluntary mechanisms to protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm.”