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Insights EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Control and Delete

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Social media, IT rules 2021,
  • Mains GS Paper II: Digital India, Important aspects of governance(e governance, accountability), IT rules 2021, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Government has planned to set up a panel that can overturn content moderation decisions made by social media platforms is problematic in many ways.
  • The proposed amendment to the controversial IT Rules, 2021 and to constitute one or more appellate committees which will have the final word on any content moderation issue facing a social media platform.

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Social Media:

  • Social media plays an integral role in our lives today and has a huge bearing on society and individuals.
  • Social media has revolutionized the way people communicate and socialize on the web.
  • Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others are proving to be a double-edged sword in the functioning of democracies.
  • It has democratized access to information but on the other hand, it has also posed new challenges which are now directly impacting our democracies and the people.
  • India has approx 574 million active Internet users as of 2021.
  • India is the second-largest online market, behind China.
  • The majority of India’s internet users are mobile phone internet users.
  • The overall data traffic in India increased by 47% in 2019 driven by continued 4G consumption.
  • 4G constituted 96% of the total data traffic consumed across the country while 3G data traffic registered its highest-ever decline of 30%.
  • The public opinion is amplified on social media, making democracy more transparent and even stronger.

 

Benefits of Social Media:

  • Democratization of Information:
  1. Social media is allowing the democratization of knowledge and broader communication.
  2. People around the world now feel empowered to bypass traditional curators of information.
  3. They have also become creators and disseminators of content, not just consumers of it.
  • New Opportunities:
  1. It provides voiceless people unprecedented opportunities to assert themselves and experience a sense of belongingness.
  2. The rise of several YouTubers as a medium of profession is a testimony of the phenomenon.
  • Wider and Heterogeneous Communities:

Online communities are, geographically, much wider and more heterogeneous than physical communities.

  • Cheap and Easy:
  1. Creating content needs less investment than the brick and mortar or any other Physical set up.
  2. It is more often soft-skill driven.
  3. With the assistance of technology, anyone can create competent, authentic, effective and fresh online content.
  • Countering The Hegemony:
  1. Social Media has also evolved as a tool to counter the hegemony or narrative of traditional players.
  2. It has provided an alternate source of Knowledge in a world where mainstream media has come under severe public criticism for fake news and propaganda.
  • Closing The Distance/Globalization:
  1. Social Media has also bridged the distance.
  2. Friends and Family are now connected over WhatsApp and other Apps despite being far away in distance.
  • Direct Interaction With Government
  1. Today Social Media has empowered common people to directly interact with the government and avail government services directly.
  2. Common people tagging Railway and other ministries and the agencies responding to them is common news these days.

 

Challenges

  • Hate speech and rumours
  1. Hate speech and rumours in India have been responsible for acts of violence and deaths in many of the cases for quite some time now.
  2. The most recent being the case when two sadhus and their driver were lynched in Gadchinchale village in Palghar, Maharashtra this year.
  3. The incident was fuelled by WhatsApp rumours about thieves operating in the area and the group of villagers had mistaken the three passengers as thieves and killed them.
  4. Several policemen who intervened were also attacked and injured.
  5. Similarly Hate Speech on Social Media had a big role in the Delhi Riots of 2020.
  • Fake News
  1. A 2019 Microsoft study found that over 64% of Indians encounter fake news online, the highest reported amongst the 22 countries surveyed.
  2. There are a staggering number of edited images, manipulated videos and fake text messages spreading through social media platforms and messaging services like WhatsApp making it harder to distinguish between misinformation and credible facts.
  • Online Trolling
  1. Trolling is the new bi product of Social Media.
  2. Vigilantes take law in their own hand and start trolling and threatening those who don’t agree with their views or narratives.
  3. It has led to anonymous trolls who attack the reputation of an individual.
  • Women Safety

Women face cyber rape and threats that affect their dignity severely.
Sometimes their pictures and videos are leaked and are forced to cyber bullying.

 

Need for regulation:

  • The persistent spread of fake news, abuse of these platforms to share morphed images of women have been issues of concern.
  • The guidelines present an oversight mechanism to deal with issues.
  • Social Media Regulation is important to keep undesirables away: Social media is the easiest way to slander or taint the image of publicly known people or organizations. Therefore, social media censorship is the right tool to handle such miscreants who can mislead and manipulate users and turn their opinions negative.
  • The regulation allows users to feel like they control their accounts and who gets access to their private information.
  • Respect the sensitivities: The provisions would ensure that the users are not shown illicit or illegal content depicting sexual violence, child pornography or content promoting hatred in the community.
  • Again, the insertion of age filters will make the platforms better suited to users of all ages, including children and they would not be exposed to sensitive content.

 

Issues with Social Media regulations:

  • Threat to Privacy: The rules allow the government to enforce a traceability mechanism. This simply means a threat to the user’s privacy. It will hamper the end-to-end encryption of platforms like WhatsApp.
  • Threat to Free Speech: As the new rules curtail free speech on these platforms, there will be a sense of fear among the users.
  • Tussle between government and Social Media giants:

Non-compliance will further widen the relationship gap between social media players and the Government. Further, it will also increase ongoing issues.

  • Against landmark judgements:
    In the case of Life Insurance Corpn. Of India vs Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992), the SC had stated that ‘the freedom to circulate one’s views as the lifeline of any democratic institution’.
  • The Information Technology Rules, 2021 by making the Government the ultimate adjudicator of objectionable speech online restricts the citizen’s right to dissent against the government.
  • No scope of fair recourse:
  1. An intermediary is now supposed to take down content within 36 hours upon receiving orders from the Government.
  2. However, in the event of a disagreement with the Government’s order, the Intermediary does not have an option for a fair recourse.

 

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021:

  • These new rules broadly deal with social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
  • These rules have been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.
  • It mandates a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country. This is necessary for the users of social media to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media.
  • Significant social media firms have to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.
  • A grievance officer: Social media platforms will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and dispose of it in 15 days.
  • Removal of content: If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women – about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc – social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made.
  • A monthly report: They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.
  • There will be three levels of regulation for news publishers:
  1. Self-regulation
  2. A self-regulatory body, headed by a retired judge or an eminent person
  3. Oversight from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, including codes of practices and a grievance committee.

 

 

4G and 5G:

4G 5G
4G uses lower radio frequencies of 700 mhz to 2500 mh 5G utilizes much higher radio frequencies of 28 ghz.
4G speed is lesser with less data transfer. 5G transfers more data over the air at faster speeds.
4G has higher latency as compared to 5G. Latency for 4G is around 20-30 milliseconds. 5G has lower latency i.e the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction. Latency for 5G is predicted to be below 10 milliseconds, and in best cases around 1 millisecond.
4G supports a lesser number of devices of about 4,000 devices per square kilometer. 5G uses millimeter wave spectrum which enables more devices to be used within the same geographic area supporting around one million per square kilometer.
4G has led to more congestion and lesser coverage as compared to 5G. 5G uses a new digital technology that improves coverage, speed and capacity.

 

Way Forward

  • Fight Misinformation With Information:
  1. This is the other way where alternative information alongside the content with fake information is posted so that the users are exposed to the truth and correct information.
  2. It is implemented by YouTube, encourages users to click on the links with verified and vetted information that would debunk the misguided claims made in fake or hateful content.
  3. g, If you search “Vaccines cause autism” on YouTube, while you still can view the videos posted by anti-vaxxers, you will also be presented with a link to the Wikipedia page of MMR vaccine that debunks such beliefs.
  • Public Awareness: A digitally literate country is the need of the hour. Responsible social media use must be taught at every school and college in the country and especially in the rural areas where people can be easily manipulated.
  • As India is not a surveillance state, there must not be any illegal or unconstitutional check on the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression which are the fundamental rights of every citizen.
  • There must be a balance as the Constitutions itself has provided several limitations on one’s right to speech and expression.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

 Critically analyze Social media regulations along with IT rules 2021. (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)