India plans to introduce rules to regulate social media because it can cause “unimaginable disruption” to democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a legal document filed in the nation’s Supreme Court on Monday.
The government needs three months to formulate the rules to regulate social media platforms offered by companies such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. to curb circulation of fake news, according to the document seen by Bloomberg. Rules will help in curbing growing threats to “individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security,” according to the filing. A spokesman at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which filed the document, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
India joins a growing list of nations seeking to regulate social media in a bid to combat false information. A controversial “fake news” law took effect in Singapore this month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration wants power to crack down crimes committed online and to fight fake news, critics worry the rules can be used to curb free speech and invade users’ privacy rights.
India’s Supreme Court is hearing a case filed by Facebook that may decide whether WhatsApp, other messaging services providers, and social media companies can be forced to trace and reveal the identity of the originator of a message.
In the keenly watched case, Facebook invoked its users’ right to privacy after a provincial government argued that companies must reveal identity of originators of messages in a bid to check child pornography and hate speeches. The Internet giant said WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted but an order in the case may lead to changes in the product globally.
On Facebook’s petition urging the Supreme Court to hear the case the top court had earlier restrained a lower court from passing an order in the case. The filing on Monday came after the court had directed the government to inform about the stage of framing of rules.
The government said in the filing that consultations with industry have happened and the rules will be framed after further discussions between others ministries and departments of the government. The top court is scheduled to hear the case on Tuesday.