With the new restrictions in place, social media may be forced to comply with government directives.
Censorship on social media is on the way, albeit it is not being named that and is being sugarcoated to seem like a redressal mechanism. The new laws imposed by the government would give the government unprecedented control over social media. The government has issued guidelines outlining how it would establish appellate tribunals to address user complaints over social media material. Though it may appear to be innocuous, it significantly undermines the independence and neutrality of social media sites. Although social media information is already monitored, there is no system in place to control it. Not any longer. The onus is now on the social media site to remove any damning material uploaded by anybody on its network, or face the penalties. To set up the redressal process, the Centre will organise panels in three months to consider appeals on social media posts. MoS Rajeev Chandreshakhan has stated that the measure was necessary since social media corporations failed to respond to lakhs of issues despite complaints, which is unacceptable. These platforms will be required to erase any “misinformation” or unlawful content, as well as content that encourages hatred between various groups based on religion or caste, within 72 hours of being flagged.
Perhaps the government’s motivation is to save its own skin rather than to protect individuals. Many social media outlets, such as YouTube, have recently sprung that are highly critical of the government and cause it humiliation. Previously, the electronic media danced to its own tune, and the government paid little attention to social media. Cheap internet and ubiquitous cellphones have changed the game. The cumulative reach of social media now far outnumbers that of TV channels, whose credibility and reach are rapidly dwindling. Furthermore, while the BJP had first mover advantage in social media, other political parties are now catching up. The appellate system has the potential to change all of that. It is simple now; a complaint letter from a proxy or dummy individual could start the ball rolling, and the social media platform would be forced to comply without much thought. Backdoor censorship could become more stringent over time. Social media has done some excellent work in exposing government lies and misadventures, but this may be a thing of the past.