Facebook-Instagram Chief Mark Zuckerberg Just Apologised To America For THIS Reason. But What About India?

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Social media platforms have been a boon for many but at the same time, it has severely affected children and minors across the globe. Young people and children have faced not only harassment but also bullying on social media by strangers. Some even faced extortion threats and died by suicide. Now, tech CEOs who head various social media platforms faced a heated hearing in the US Senate where they were accused of having blood on their hands. Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized to families over the impact of social media on children. 

As the hearing kicked off, the committee played a video in which children spoke about being bullied on social media platforms. Senators recounted stories of young people taking their own lives after being extorted for money after sharing photos with sexual predators. Zuckerberg not only apologised but also promised industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things those families have had to suffer.

While Zuckerberg apologised to the US people, what about those in India who have faced similar harassment and abuse? While leaders in the United States have been critical of social media platforms, the same intensity and seriousness are not seen among Indian political leadership. It may be because such incidents are not widely reported in India. In the past, it has been seen that the Indian government has been reactive and not proactive to harms caused by social media, be it the case of TikTok or Twitter. 

In December last year, the Indian Ministry of Information Technology issued notices to various social media platforms, including Telegram, YouTube, and X, instructing them to promptly remove any child sexual abuse material and groups involved in the circulation of such content.

The notice was issued for content or material which is violative of Rule 3(1)(d) and Rule 4(4) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021). Union IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar had earlier said that the days of ‘free pass’ for the social media sites were over.

The government of India brought new IT rules in 2021 which provided for stricter punishment in case of violative materials on social media sites. The government had said that non-compliance with the requirements as per new rules will be deemed a breach of Rule 3(1)(b) and Rule 4(4) of the IT Rules, 2021. The IT rules under the IT Act lay down strict expectations from social media intermediaries that they should not allow criminal or harmful posts on their platforms. If they do not act swiftly, their safe harbour under section 79 of the IT Act would be withdrawn and consequences under the Indian law will follow.

The Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000, provides the legal framework for addressing pornographic content, including CSAM. Sections 66E, 67, 67A, and 67B of the IT Act impose stringent penalties and fines for the online transmission of obscene or pornographic content.

While the rules are in place, their full-throttle implementation has not been ensured in the absence of a proper monitoring and implementation system. While the Indian government has shown its intention to ensure free, fair and safe social media platforms, not only the social media platforms but even the users need to be aware of their rights. Social media users should also come out and report violative materials available on these platforms. Only a collective effort can lead to a safe internet ecosystem but there is no doubt that the government and the tech firms will have to play a greater role in that.

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