India Implements Strict New Rules for Enforcement Action from Social Media Platforms

This could put a spanner in the growth strategies of the tech giants in India.

Today, the Indian Government has unveiled a new set of enforcement requirements for social media platforms, which will set tougher response times, and require local teams, among other parameters.

As reported by TechCrunch, Indian authorities will now require that:

  • Social platforms acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful, misinformation and/or violent content within 24 hours
  • Platforms will need to deliver full action and response to any such requests in within 15 days
  • In cases involving explicit sexual content, platforms will be required to remove the content within 24 hours
  • Platforms will also need to disclose the originator of objectionable content (WhatsApp has previously noted that its encryption processes will not be able to accomodate this)

In addition to this, the platforms will also need to appoint compliance officers, whose details will be registered with authorities, while each company will also need to set up a local office in India to establish direct connection.

The platforms will also be required to offer a voluntary option to users who wish to verify their accounts.

Meeting all of these requirements could pose challenges for the social media giants, which have been hesitant to commit to such targets in the past. But as India has already shown in many cases, failure to comply can quickly lead to a full ban in the nation, and a loss of connection with its 1.4 billion citizens

TikTok felt the brunt of this last year, when it lost its largest user region overnight due to ongoing disputes between Indian and Chinese authorities. That saw the platform drop by 200 million active users immediately, while more recently Twitter has also faced a potential ban in India over its refusal to comply with requests to take down content related to recent protests. 

Facebook has also had its share of public issues in India, with its top executive in the region filing a criminal complaint against a journalist last year over an article that criticized alleged selective enforcement of Facebook’s hate-speech policies.

Each of these cases has played some role in establishing India’s new rules, which, as noted, will add increased friction in their respective efforts to expand in the nation, and capitalize on India’s emerging reliance on technology.

Indeed, both Twitter and Facebook are seeing significant growth in India, and both have put increased emphasis on the market as a key element in their ongoing growth projections. Just today, Twitter unveiled its plans to double its revenue by 2023, highlighting its 74% usage growth in India as a key element within this projection.

Facebook, meanwhile, is looking to covert WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the nation, into a key connective tool for a wide range of day-to-day activities. If it’s successful, that could make India the key market for Facebook’s future growth, and it’s already invested billions into further building its presence in the local industry.

For the most part, it’s not impossible for the platforms to meet these new targets, but it will require more investment, which, given their rising reliance on the market, they’ll no doubt make. But that could also slow their growth momentum, depending on what’s required. It could also, as noted, make things complicated for WhatsApp, which recently saw significant backlash among Indian users as a result of its proposed data-sharing changes that would see information about business exchanges within the app shared with parent company Facebook.

If WhatsApp needs to track content originators, that will no doubt spark another round of angst.

Other nations will also be watching on to see how the platforms respond to the increased regulation. Various regions are looking to implement their own parameters on how tech firms can operate, and the Indian model could provide some more lessons in developing those plans. 

This, combined with the Australian Government’s recent push to make platforms pay for news content, will help shape more policy approaches, which could, eventually, lead to more uniform rules for social platforms around the world.

But we’re not there yet, and you can expect India’s plan to see challenges. How that impacts each case will be an important element to watch. 

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