The accountability rules for popular social media apps like WhatsApp are going to be more tough with the central government set to bring changes in upcoming intermediary guidelines proposing penalties and jail terms for social media executives.
According to reports, the social media app executives may face penalties especially on traceability and user consent before being added to groups.
The intermediary guidelines with more teeth are likely to come out after the 17th Lok Sabha polls.
A report published by ET quoted a senior government official saying: “The intermediary guidelines should be out soon after elections and we expect all social media apps to comply with them.”
“In the guidelines, we are writing that encryption should be such that it should support traceability,” the report further quoted the official as saying.
According to officials, social media apps have resisted the efforts of the central government to help the law-enforcing agencies trace the origin of inflammatory messages or those related to illegal activities such as trafficking and drug use.
The report quoted another official as saying: “They (social media apps) have been dilly dallying on the issue,” adding, “They say that it is not that they don’t wish to, it is just that they technically can’t, so once these guidelines are out, social media apps will be compelled to re-engineer their processes to comply with the law of the land.”
The official reportedly said the new intermediary guidelines are seen as the solution as multiple discussions with social media apps like WhatsApp have failed to yield any results.
The report also quoted a WhatsApp spokesperson as saying “people rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations” with their banks, families and doctors.
The WhatsApp spokesperson claimed that the police also use WhatsApp to discuss probes and report criminal activities.
The report quoted the WhatsApp spokesperson as saying: “Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp creating the potential for serious misuse.”
He also that their “focus is on improving WhatsApp” and working closer with others in the society to “help keep people safe”.
With a view to crack down on rumours and fake news that have fueled violence, including lynchings, in different parts of the country, the government prepared intermediary guidelines for internet and social media companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp.