Why are Twitter and WhatsApp outraged by the Indian authorities? | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW
The Indian government’s battle with social media giants escalated Thursday, with Twitter accusing police of “intimidation.”
The microblogging site’s statement came days after Delhi police visited Twitter offices to serve a notice in connection with a tweet from a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that the company described as “manipulated”.
“At this time, we are concerned about recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to free speech for the people we serve,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
“We, along with many members of civil society in India and around the world, are concerned about the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to the enforcement of our terms of service, as well as essential elements of the new IT rules. ,” he added.
“ A lot of arm twists are happening ”
Angered by Twitter’s decision, the government lashed out at the U.S. firm, saying its statement on the country’s new computer rules was an attempt to dictate terms to the world’s largest democracy.
“India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices stretching back centuries. The protection of freedom of speech in India is not the preserve of a single private for-profit foreign entity. like Twitter, “a government statement said.
The statement posted on Koo, an Indian social media platform, further stressed that the making of laws and formulating policies is the “sole prerogative of the ruler” and that a social media platform like Twitter has no locus to dictate what India’s legal framework should look like. like.
“It is clearly a confrontation between the sovereign rights of the country and the intermediary which has financial stakes. There are a lot of twists and turns and I think the issue will reach the Supreme Court of the country,” Pavan Duggal said, a cyberlaw expert. DW.
A tense dead end
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and social media have been embroiled in a tense standoff in recent months over India’s new IT rules, which have also alarmed privacy rights activists.
The new regulations oblige Internet platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to erase content that authorities deem illegal and to contribute to police investigations, in particular by identifying the “first author” of publications considered to infringe the sovereignty of the government. India, state security or public order.
They also require companies to appoint a compliance officer who would then be criminally responsible for content posted on the platform.
The sweeping regulations, which hold tech companies more accountable for content shared on their platforms, were announced in February. A 90-day grace period for complying with the rules ended on Wednesday.
Critics say Modi’s administration has proposed new rules to quell online criticism.
“If the government was committed to free speech and dissent, how come the police arrested 25 people for putting up posters about why our vaccines are being exported? The regime’s claims are false “said MK Venu, co-founder of news site The Wire,” said DW. The website challenged the new IT regulations in the Delhi High Court.
The government, however, has rejected accusations that it wants to use the new regulations to impede free speech.
Are you forced to break end-to-end encryption?
Popular messaging service WhatsApp, which claims 500 million users in India, has filed a lawsuit to prevent the government from enforcing the new rules. The company says it will force it to break user privacy protections.
“Requiring messaging apps to ‘track’ chats is tantamount to asking us to keep a fingerprint of every message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally violate people’s right to privacy.” WhatsApp said in a statement. .
The traceability rule would also affect WhatsApp alternatives like Signal and Telegram, which are also inherently designed to be end-to-end encrypted and are growing in popularity.
End-to-end encryption ensures that no one other than the recipient can see a particular message. This is the exact opposite of traceability, which would reveal who sent what to whom, according to experts.
‘It’s just the beginning’
WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook, as well as Google, have so far refrained from taking a confrontational approach and said they are working to comply with the guidelines. Nonetheless, they sought to discuss the new regulations with the authorities.
Cyber experts say the government might not block social media sites entirely if they don’t follow the new rules, but may impose a fine or prevent companies from doing business in India.
“Compliance by social media companies will be difficult and the government cannot take away user rights. A middle way must be found,” said Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of the Software Freedom Law Center, a digital rights group. based in Delhi. DW.
Digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa told AFP news agency that the new rules and the war of words were “just the start of big tech against the Indian government.”
“The people who suffer in the end are the users … What I would like to see is a reduction in the power of (social media) platforms over our speech, but also not to increase the power of governments over platforms, because then governments can use them to censor us. ”