Regulate state action on social media – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/regulate-state-action-on-social-media/articleshow/83613869.cmsSynopsis

These social media platforms are fit to bear the responsibility of a publisher, and be held accountable for what they carry after being notified that some material is unfit to be made public, as per the norms that apply to mainstream media.

The popular perception heavy-handed State handling of Twitter and other social media platforms is topsy-turvy. It focuses on whether Twitter should be made to comply with State requests or not, instead of focusing on the due process and rationality of the demand raised by the police or the government for identifying the authors of posts deemed harmful or for removing such post. There is neither a data protection law in place that protects citizens from wanton State intrusion into their privacy nor a process of holding those agents of the State that make such intrusion to account for their action. Nor is there a transparent mechanism to scrutinise the rationale for deeming certain posts to be ineligible for public consumption and demanding their deletion.

There is much concern voiced among champions of internet freedom about the right of intermediaries to not be held responsible for the user-generated content they carry. That is, they should not bear the responsibility of a publisher in mainstream media. However, the fact is that social media, apart from messenger services, do exercise editorial functions of two kinds: they exercise moderation, banning some content and their producers, or stamping their posts as manipulated media, and they sort user-generated content into different streams based on areas of interest and ideological orientation, to be fed to different groups of users according to their revealed preferences. These social media platforms are fit to bear the responsibility of a publisher, and be held accountable for what they carry after being notified that some material is unfit to be made public, as per the norms that apply to mainstream media. They should comply with rules to appoint points-people for registering grievance and compliance with law enforcement.

Messenger services need time to rejig their technology to tag messages with time and place stamps that permit traceability without the service decrypting the messages. The biggest deficit is in holding the State to account for its forays into censorship and breach of privacy.

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