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Parliamentary panel recommends social media platforms be treated as publishers: Report

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The Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 has also mooted an independent body like the Press Council of India to regulate the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

Parliamentary panel recommends social media platforms be treated as publishers: Report
A parliamentary committee has recommended treating social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter as publishers and making them responsible for the content on their platforms. The high-level panel said these social media platforms should mandatorily verify the identity of users, media reports said.
The Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 has recommended setting up an independent body like the Press Council of India to regulate social media.
The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 seeks to protect the privacy of users and enforce strict controls on collecting, processing and storing data by companies like Google and Amazon.
“Considering the immediate need to regulate social media intermediaries (the committee) has a strong view that these designated intermediaries may be working as publishers of the content in many situations, owing to the fact that they have the ability to select the receiver of the content and also exercise control over the access to any such content hosted by them,” The Economic Times said, quoting the report by the JCP. ET has reviewed a copy of the report that is due to be tabled in Parliament during the upcoming winter session.
Under the IT Act, social media platforms are considered intermediaries and the current provisions in the Personal Data Protection Bill are too broad to keep pace with their changing ecosystems, two anonymous sources told Business Standard. The panel, therefore, sought to devise a mechanism to hold social media platforms accountable for the content coming from unverified accounts, they said.
After the implementation of the Act, data fiduciaries and data processors will be given a period of two years to “to make the necessary changes to their policies, infrastructure, processes, etc.,” the ET report said. Offenses under this Bill are punishable with fines of up to 4 percent of the annual global turnover of these social media companies as is prevalent in the European Union.
The report by the JCP has said social media platforms will not be allowed to operate in India without their parent companies having an office in the country. It also recommended that India move towards data localisation gradually.
Around the world, governments are contemplating action limiting the power of big tech companies like Facebook and Google and making them accountable for the content on their platforms -- a view that has gained momentum during the pandemic.
In India, these companies enjoyed a “safe harbour” status till now as long as they followed the Intermediary Guidelines issued earlier this year. These included appointing compliance officials, setting up offices in India, and taking down some content on the request of the government.
Meanwhile, with the view of regulating both personal and non-personal data, the panel has recommended the Bill be named as the Data Protection Bill, 2021 and the Data Protection Act, 2021.
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