The Congress on Wednesday attacked the government over the new social media guidelines and called them “dire, drastic and draconian” while comparing the “freak control” model with that of North Korea.
“The issuance of the new intermediary guidelines is a reflection of the Modi government’s obsession with dictatorship and suppressing dissent. The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government is suffering from Big Daddy syndrome which is a control freak syndrome,” said Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi. “These guidelines are against India’s culture of discourse, deliberation, and dissent. The Modi government is strangulating our culture.”
The guidelines were notified under the Information Technology Act on February 25 and gave the digital media firms three months to implement new content moderation mechanisms, appoint new officers, who will be liable for compliance, and adopt features such as traceability of messages.
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Singhvi cited the 2017 Puttaswamy judgement in which the Supreme Court declared the right to privacy a fundamental right. He said privacy is important in the era of social media. “End-to-end encryption is the backbone of privacy in this era. The Modi government’s disregard for privacy is appalling.”
WhatsApp moved the Delhi high court on Tuesday seeking the scrapping of the traceability provision in the new rules for the digital media companies for identifying originators of messages, saying it “unconstitutional”, “illegal” and a “dangerous invasion of privacy”.
Singhvi compared the new rules to the North Korean model. “What you wish to implement would make the North Korean model of social media control blush. They should be seeking admission to the new Modi government school to learn these new mechanisms.” He called freedom of speech and expression and privacy the two pillars of democracy and the “vital oxygen” needed for it to exist. Singhvi asked the government not to “strangulate” the oxygen.
There was no immediate response from the BJP.