Mozilla is unhappy with Indian ‘IT rules’ No sufficient checks and balances

  • Mozilla, an open-source browser, claims that the new Indian IT rules and regulations for online platforms will have ‘disastrous outcomes’.
  • According to the company, there aren’t enough checks and balances.
  • It says, companies can’t follow the rules without violating end-to-end encryption, which could mean trouble for messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

Open Source Internet giant Mozilla has always been a big propagator of the free Internet. They are not happy with Indian IT Rules for social media platforms, OTTs and digital news content.

As per Mozilla’s public policy advisor, U. Tiwari, the unexpected move will have ‘disastrous results’ for the open Internet.

“By extending the ‘due diligence’ burdens that intermediaries will have to follow to avail safe harbour, these rules will hurt end-to-end encryption, extensively increase surveillance, promote automatic filtering and prompt a fragmentation of the Internet,” he stated in a blog post.

Tiwari stated six reasons why the new laws are not going to help Indians but harm their interests. According to him, their implementation could even lead to unintended consequences on the Internet’s overall wellness.

Social media platforms can’t follow the rules without violating end-to-end encryption

India’s new IT regulations require all ‘significant’ social media intermediaries to track down the ‘first originator’.As per Mozilla, this will give platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal no option but to violate end-to-end encryption. That, in turn, hurts user interests since it weakens the overall security of the services.

“The Indian IT rules oppose the principles of data minimisation validated in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s draft of the data protection bill,” stated Tiwari. Adding that the aspect of automatic filtering of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), non-consensual sexual acts is also basically incompatible with end-to-end encryption.

Not ample time is provided to verify allegations of misuse

While a good move on paper, mainly if you are one of the victims, confuses social media platforms. According to Mozilla’s public policy head, the 36-hour deadline for the content takedown and the 72-hour limit for sharing user data is inadequate to analyse requests or seek further explanation.

“This would likely create a malicious purpose to take down content and share user data without adequate due process safeguards,” said Tiwari explaining how such a norm would weaken the people’s fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression.

These new laws are against Supreme Court judgement.

Regarding hate, porn, deep fakes, and other derogatory materials, social media platforms are now required to remove the posts 24 hours.

While it is a genuine issue, Tiwari says that it goes against the landmark Shreya Singhal’s judgment in 2015. The bench explained that the companies would only be required to remove content when told directly by the court or government order.

They take away all anonymity provided by the Internet

As required in India IT rules, ‘ Voluntary’ verification asks social media platforms to provide a voluntary tool for users to prove their identity using phone numbers or government-issued IDs.

This may create a reason for the collection of personal data. While the law says nothing about potential abuse, Companies can use the details to profile and target users.

We have already seen this during Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Where there is personal data, there is an exceptional risk of hackers trying to steal it. This will develop social media intermediaries’ pressure — those who can afford it — to step up their cybersecurity.

There aren’t enough checks and balances against overreach

If the content has to be removed, then there isn’t enough time to check each complaint. 

It states that if the government can issue takedown requests for online news websites, online news aggregators, and others, they can take down anything they consider offensive, with only a few checks and balances.

However, the new rules are not backed by sufficient liability, says Mozilla. There are no safeguards to ensure that the laws themselves will not be misused to silence opposing opinions, which may not essentially be a ‘national security’ threat.

 

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