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India’s new rules for Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms explained in five points

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  • Social media platforms in India, like Facebook and its offshoot WhatsApp, Google’s YouTube, Twitter, and others now face a new set of rules and regulation set to be enforced after mid-May.
  • The Indian government has laid rules for a physical presence, monitoring of harmful content, tracking down the first originator of mischief, and the voluntary verification of users.
  • Here are the five most important things you need to know about India’s new IT Rules for social media platforms.
  • The article has been written by Tanu Banerjee, Ishan Johri and Garima Kedia from Khaitan & Co.

The Indian government has come up with a new set of rules and regulations to regulate social media platforms, messaging services, OTT platforms and news portals.

These regulations are called the
Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Rules). These Rules will require compliance even by foreign tech-giants operating in India such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon etc.

The growth of digital media in India has largely been fuelled by a moderate regulatory framework in India until now. However, given the growing concerns around the information and content available over social media and OTT platforms, domestic and foreign, detailed regulations for digital media from the Government were imminent.

For social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and others, the Rules focus on issues like fake news, fake user accounts and monitoring of illegal content by platforms. Greater compliances are placed on social media platforms with larger user base. A key provision specific to messaging services is the requirement to identify the originator of messages in case of mischief.

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Significant social media intermediaries — more on behaviour than stats




Social media platforms with minimum 50 lakh registered users are classified as significant social media intermediaries and are subject to maximum compliances. However, the Government may require any other social media platform to also comply with rules applicable to significant social media intermediaries if services of such platform create a material risk to the sovereignty or integrity of India.

While the actual implementation of this remains to be seen, at this juncture it appears that purely as a result of user behaviour, even smaller social media platforms could be brought under the ambit of stricter compliances under the rules.

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If you are doing business in India, you need to be setup in India




All significant social media intermediaries are required to appoint:

  • a Chief Compliance Officer
  • a Nodal Contact Person
  • and, a Resident Grievance Officer

Each of the above are required to be Indian residents.

The Rules also necessitate significant social media intermediaries to have a physical contact address in India. This mandatory physical presence in India will have significant implications for foreign players in terms of setting up infrastructure and deployment of resources and taxation.

However, absence of a registration or a mandatory licensing framework for digital media businesses, will hopefully continue to garner interest from foreign players to set up operations in India.

Active monitoring of harmful content — shifting the responsibility to ‘intermediaries’




In a departure from the previously applicable Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 (2011 Rules), significant social media intermediaries are now required to endeavour to deploy technology-based measures, including automated tools to identify information that depicts rape, child sexual abuse or conduct, or information that has previously been removed.

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The rules also require maintenance of appropriate human oversight, and periodic review of automated tools. Such active monitoring by intermediaries dilutes the safe harbour protection that was available to intermediaries under the 2011 Rules.

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Verification of users — security or risk to privacy?




Significant social media intermediaries are to provide a mechanism for verification of user accounts, e.g. through mobile numbers. Verified users are to be identified by a demonstrable mark such as a tick or dot. Though such verification by users is voluntary, it may still be a setback for user privacy. A platform’s use of personal information provided by users is subject to the platform’s privacy policy, to which users typically have no option but to consent. User information provided for verification will simply become part of the data under the privacy policy that platforms are entitled to collect and use.

Identification of ‘first originator’ of Information

Messaging services (with more than 50 lakh users) will be required to enable identification of the first originator of information if required by a court order or an order of the Government under Section 69 of the IT Act.

Such identification of a user
brings into question the end-to-end encryption offered by services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc.; and whether identifying a user as the “first originator” of mischievous information accurately is practically possible for a platform.

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*Tanu Banerjee is a partner, Ishan Johri is a senior associate and Garima Kedia is an associate at law firm Khaitan & Co. Views expressed here are personal.

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Facebook and Twitter have a ton of new rules to abide by in India ⁠— WhatsApp may find itself in the toughest spot of all

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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