The Indian parliament recommends that Facebook and Twitter should be overseen by a new regulator

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An Indian parliamentary body has recommended treating social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as publishers and creating a regulator to oversee them, potentially exposing companies to greater liability for user-generated content.

The high-level committee made these recommendations when it was reviewing the Personal Data Protection Act, introduced in 2019, which aims to protect user privacy and enforce tight controls on companies like Google and Amazon. Collect, process and store data.

The panel is calling for stricter rules because current laws treating these social media platforms as intermediaries haven’t done enough in terms of regulation, said the two people who are not allowed to speak to the media. They also said the current provisions in the Personal Data Protection Act are too broad.

People said the committee recommended setting up the regulator along the lines of the Indian Press Council to regulate the content. A mechanism could be developed for social media platforms to be held responsible for content coming from unverified accounts, they said.

PP Chaudhary, a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker who chairs the panel, said the report’s recommendations would be presented to parliament at the November 29 session. He declined to discuss the contents of the report.

If these recommendations are included in the revised bill and passed in parliament, it could have far-reaching implications for the operations of public and private companies in the world’s largest social media market. Violations according to this law can be punished with fines of up to 4 percent of the worldwide annual turnover of social media companies, similar to the European Union.

Such steps reflect similar feelings outside of India. Lawmakers from Washington to Brussels have been considering measures to hold social media companies like Facebook and Google accountable for the enormous amount of content generated on their platforms on a daily basis, a view that gained momentum during the pandemic.

In India, these companies have so far enjoyed “safe haven” status and cannot be held liable for user-generated content on their platform as long as they follow the intermediary guidelines issued earlier this year. This included setting up offices in India, appointing compliance officers and complying with government requests to remove certain types of content it deems harmful.

Google declined to comment on the panel’s recommendations. Twitter and Metas Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

data protection

India’s rapid rush for smartphone adoption has sparked an explosion of personal and sensitive information. However, user privacy laws have not evolved at the same pace, raising concerns about potential abuse among activists and civic groups.

It took Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government two years to come up with data protection laws after the Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right of the individual. The parliamentary body missed many deadlines to finalize its report as legislators disagreed on some provisions of the bill. On Monday, the committee had completed the report.

Legislators on the panel are in favor of extending the scope of the bill to include non-personal data, people said. Allowing approximately 24 months to implement the provisions of the law was also recommended so that data-related companies can make the necessary changes to their policies, infrastructures and processes.

The panel also retained the provision that allows the government to grant exemptions from parts of the legislation to its authorities, although some lawmakers have expressed reservations about this.

– With the support of Abhijit Roy Chowdhury and Saritha Rai.

© 2021 Bloomberg LP

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