Context:

Trump had been banned indefinitely by Facebook from posting or accessing his page on January 2021 following the chaotic situation of US Capitol Hill Siege.

Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social media network’s decision to indefinitely block Mr. Trump for using the platform to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.”

Recently the Oversight Board overturned Facebook’s decision to remove a post that had alleged that the RSS and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were threatening to kill Sikhs in India.

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Challenges to Internal Security Through Communication Networks, Role of Media & Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Facebook’s Oversight Board?
  2. What are recommendations of the Oversight Board?
  3. Law Related to Blocking of Internet Services/Content in India
  4. Obligations of Intermediaries under the IT Act

What is Facebook’s Oversight Board?

  • The Oversight Board has been set up as an independent body that will help Facebook figure out what content can be allowed on the platform and what ought to be removed.
  • It was said to have emerged out of the tensions around the often-conflicting goals of maintaining Facebook as a platform for free speech and effectively filtering out problematic speech.
  • The members who make the Oversight Board came on board very recently, in 2020 and the board consists of 20 members.

What are recommendations of the Oversight Board?

  • The Board wants Facebook to act quickly when it comes to content of a political nature coming from influential users.
  • Its idea is to escalate such content to specialised staff as also assess potential harms from such accounts.
  • It also wants Facebook to be more transparent about its policies regarding assistance to investigations as well as its penalty rules.
  • It also wants Facebook to comprehensively review its “potential contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and the exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6. This should be an open reflection on the design and policy choices that Facebook has made that may allow its platform to be abused.”

Law Related to Blocking of Internet Services/Content in India

  • In India, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources and covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records. The role of the intermediaries has been spelt out in separate rules framed for the purpose in 2011- The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.
  • Section 69 of the IT Act confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions “to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.

The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:

  1. In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
  2. Friendly relations with foreign states.
  3. Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
  4. For investigating any offence.

Section 69A of the IT Act enables the Centre to ask any agency of the government, or any intermediary, to block access to the public of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted on any computer resource.

Obligations of Intermediaries under the IT Act

  • The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
  • It includes any person who, on behalf of another, “receives, stores or transmits” any electronic record. Social media platforms would fall under this definition.
  • Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information in a manner and format prescribed by the Centre for a specified duration.
  • When a direction is given for monitoring, the intermediary and any person in charge of a computer resource should extend technical assistance in the form of giving access or securing access to the resource involved.
  • Section 79 of the IT Act 2000 makes it clear that “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him”. This protects intermediaries such as Internet and data service providers and those hosting websites from being made liable for content that users may post or generate.

-Source: The Hindu

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