The Bill’s “Network Enforcement Authority” will hold platforms accountable with the values of “fairness, proportionality, and necessity”. Appointed by the Centre, the suggested authority has been compared to the Election Commission by the MP’s office.

In contrast to the recently-publicised draft amendments to rules governing content under the IT Act by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), a Private Member’s Bill to be introduced in Lok Sabha on Friday will propose an alternative definition of “unlawful content” as well as an independent authority to adjudicate social media companies’ response to such content.

It argues that the draft amendments’ call to break messaging encryption on platforms such as WhatsApp infringes on the constitutional right to privacy because it lacks judicial safeguards against governmental abuse of interference.
Congress’s Arunachal East MP Ninong Ering will introduce the Social Media Accountability Bill to “keep the privacy-security balance intact” and fight against “executive overreach”.

The Bill’s “Network Enforcement Authority” will hold platforms accountable with the values of “fairness, proportionality, and necessity”. Appointed by the Centre, the suggested authority has been compared to the Election Commission by the MP’s office.

The Bill’s definition of “unlawful content” focuses on IPC violations such as promoting hatred, blasphemy, and false and mischievous news. In contrast, the draft amendments invoke “sovereignty”, friendly foreign affairs, “public order, decency or morality” under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. These terms “can perpetually eliminate every kind of information that goes against the state’s wish,” the MP’s document read.

Earlier this week, The Indian Express reported on a closed-door confidential MeitY meeting with technology platforms on the draft amendments. The MeitY later opened the draft for public consultation. “The government’s defence to such ill-drafted, ill-sighted and flawed policy document has always been on the grounds of national security and the broad ideas of sovereignty, decency and morality against which it expects the citizens to surrender their privacy and dignity. However, it is the job of the active citizenry and civil society to incessantly remind the state of its limitations,” according to the document.

Further, the Bill mandates a company “Network Security Officer”, placing a human complaint responder instead of the IT Ministry’s “technology-based automated tools” that “proactively” remove unlawful content.

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