Media platforms

Hold social media platforms accountable


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While a full analysis of the data protection bill, as approved by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, is expected to await its tabling in the House, some of its reported elements call for comment. and a possible correction before the government tables the bill.

The most important part of the bill, which is said to have been the subject of dissenting notes by various members of the committee, concerns the blanket exemption from data protection standards for government agencies in the name of national security. This violates the right to privacy of citizens, considered a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in 2017, and all democratic standards. Democracy requires a balance between the power of the state and the autonomy of the individual. If it does not belong to anyone that a fundamental right is absolute, a justification must be established to truncate any fundamental right. In the United States, a court order must be obtained for any law enforcement agency to violate a citizen’s privacy. This should also be the case in India. In addition, all authorized breaches of privacy must be referred to a committee of Parliament for review. Examples of state agencies alleging global crimes and conspiracies that the higher judiciary would later dismiss as baseless – Aryan Khan’s indictment being a recent example – abound. Failure to hold state agencies accountable for monitoring citizens they exercise in the name of prosecuting crimes or protecting national security would be giving them carte blanche to violate citizens’ rights.

Any move to hold large social media platforms that deploy algorithms to deliver personalized news feeds to their subscribers accountable for the content they host, on par with regular publishers, would be welcome. This would ease the burden of moderating content on these platforms. Rather than seeing accountability on par with that of mainstream media as a restriction, social media should see it as a liberation from having to define the contours of tolerance themselves, instead of outsourcing it to the public. law.

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