Amid controversy with WhatsApp, RS Prasad defends digital media guidelines
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday reiterated the government's stand on the new guidelines under which digital media companies will have to disclose the identity of the "first originator of information" when asked for it and said they were designed to prevent the “abuse" and "misuse” of social media.
"Government fully recognises and respects the right of privacy. Ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new Rules. Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the Rules," the minister posted on India-made social media platform Koo.
Watch | 'WhatsApp users need not worry about privacy': Govt defends new rules
"The new Rules are only designed to prevent abuse and misuse of social media. Government welcomes criticism including the right to ask questions. The Rules only empower the ordinary users of social media when they become victims of abuse and misuse," the Electronics and Information Technology and Communications minister said.
The media platforms would be obligated to reveal the first originator of an "offensive message already in circulation" only in cases of offences relating to "sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order, rape, child sexual abuse," he said. "That too when other less intrusive measures are not effective," he added.
WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, asked the Delhi High Court on Tuesday to declare that one of the new social media rules is a violation of privacy rights in India's constitution.
The new rules require social media companies to set up an India-based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer and a nodal officer. This is made mandatory so that the users who have grievances can get a forum for its redressal, the minister said.