US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at stripping legal protections available for social media companies in the US. Trump uses Twitter regularly to announce policies, make statements against rivals and complain against the media.
Early this week, Twitter used fact-check labels to several of his tweets about mail-in voting, providing links to accurate information on the topic. This angered Trump to sign an order against social media companies to reevaluate the immunity enjoyed by them.
In India, the government has been looking to make social media sites more accountable for content on their platforms. ET compares the executive order in the US and the efforts in India to rein in social media platforms.
WHAT PROTECTS SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES
In the USA
1996 law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, bars people from suing providers of an “interactive computer service” for libel if users post defamatory messages on their platforms. It says intermediary website operators will not be treated as the publisher or speaker for making others’ posts available. A related provision protects sites from lawsuits accusing them of wrongfully taking down content. It gives them immunity for “good faith” decisions to remove or restrict posts they deem “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
Intermediary guidelines under the Sec 79 of IT Act 2000 gives legal protection for social media sites if someone posts defamatory and unlawful content on their platforms. It provides time for social media platforms to remove such content with due legal procedures.
How does Trump’s executive order target this shield in the US
The order argues that if a site restricts access to others’ content in bad faith and goes beyond removing the types of objectionable content detailed in the law, it should be deemed a publisher rather than a neutral platform — thus losing its legal immunity from lawsuits. It is however subject to court review.
India has come out with a draft amendment to the intermediary guidelines in 2018 to define new rules to take down content that causes disturbances from social media platforms. The rules are to make social media companies more accountable for the content they host. The draft proposes that all platforms with over 5 million users in India need to have local offices and grievance officers so that the government can engage with them. Platforms will also have to verify users, trace content on order of a court and put automated tools for filtering child pornography.
What Next For The Trump Order
The order asks the US Federal Communications Commission to develop regulations addressing whether social media firms lose Section 230 immunity if they restrict access to posted material in bad faith. That could include actions that are “deceptive, pretextual or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service.”
Next Step for India
The government is in the final stages of notifying the intermediary guidelines. Once done, it may give a notice to social media companies to comply with it.
— TEXT: NYTNS/ET BUREAU