Photos: 40 crore social media users in India could lose their anonymity

According to a set of new guidelines that are set to release later this month, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok will have to reveal users’ identities if Indian government agencies ask them to. The rules cover all social media and messaging apps with more than 5 lakh users. India, with 130 crore people, has about 50 crore internet users. Tech companies and civil rights groups say the new rules are an invitation to abuse and censorship, as well as a burdensome requirement on new and growing companies.

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST 10 Photos
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People use smartphones while sitting on steps in Mumbai. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok will have to reveal users' identities if government agencies ask them to, according to the new rules for social media companies and messaging apps expected to be published later this month. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

People use smartphones while sitting on steps in Mumbai. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok will have to reveal users' identities if government agencies ask them to, according to the new rules for social media companies and messaging apps expected to be published later this month. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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People use smartphones in Mumbai. The requirement comes as governments around the world are trying to hold social media companies more accountable for the content that circulates on their platforms, whether it’s fake news, child porn, racist invective or terrorism-related content. These new guidelines go further than most other countries’ by requiring blanket cooperation with government inquiries, no warrant or judicial order required. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

People use smartphones in Mumbai. The requirement comes as governments around the world are trying to hold social media companies more accountable for the content that circulates on their platforms, whether it’s fake news, child porn, racist invective or terrorism-related content. These new guidelines go further than most other countries’ by requiring blanket cooperation with government inquiries, no warrant or judicial order required. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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Workers use smartphones while sitting on carts in Mumbai. The government proposed these guidelines in December 2018 and asked for public comment. The Internet and Mobile Association of India, a trade group that counts Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google among its members, responded that the requirements “would be a violation of the right to privacy recognised by the Supreme Court.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Workers use smartphones while sitting on carts in Mumbai. The government proposed these guidelines in December 2018 and asked for public comment. The Internet and Mobile Association of India, a trade group that counts Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google among its members, responded that the requirements “would be a violation of the right to privacy recognised by the Supreme Court.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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Customers use smartphones while sitting in a restaurant. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (IT) is expected to publish the new rules later this month without major changes, according to a government official familiar with the matter. “The guidelines for intermediaries are under process,” said NN Kaul, media adviser to the minister of electronics and IT. “We cannot comment on the guidelines or changes till they are published.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Customers use smartphones while sitting in a restaurant. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (IT) is expected to publish the new rules later this month without major changes, according to a government official familiar with the matter. “The guidelines for intermediaries are under process,” said NN Kaul, media adviser to the minister of electronics and IT. “We cannot comment on the guidelines or changes till they are published.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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The provisions in the earlier draft had required platforms such as Google’s YouTube or ByteDance Inc.’s TikTok, Facebook or its Instagram and WhatsApp apps, to help the government trace the origins of a post within 72 hours of a request. The companies would also have to preserve their records for at least 180 days to aid government investigators. The ministry is still finalising the language and content. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

The provisions in the earlier draft had required platforms such as Google’s YouTube or ByteDance Inc.’s TikTok, Facebook or its Instagram and WhatsApp apps, to help the government trace the origins of a post within 72 hours of a request. The companies would also have to preserve their records for at least 180 days to aid government investigators. The ministry is still finalising the language and content. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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A passenger displays application icons for various social media platforms on a smartphone for a photograph while travelling by a train in Mumbai. The rules cover all social media and messaging apps with more than 5 lakh users. India, with 130 crore people, has about 50 crore internet users. It isn’t clear whether the identities of foreign users would be subject to the Indian government’s inquiries. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A passenger displays application icons for various social media platforms on a smartphone for a photograph while travelling by a train in Mumbai. The rules cover all social media and messaging apps with more than 5 lakh users. India, with 130 crore people, has about 50 crore internet users. It isn’t clear whether the identities of foreign users would be subject to the Indian government’s inquiries. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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A man uses a smartphone while carrying a child in Mumbai. In India, where the internet—and fake news—are still relatively new phenomenon, a false report of rampant child abduction and organ harvesting circulated widely via WhatsApp, leading to mob violence and over three dozen fatal lynchings in 2017 and 2018. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A man uses a smartphone while carrying a child in Mumbai. In India, where the internet—and fake news—are still relatively new phenomenon, a false report of rampant child abduction and organ harvesting circulated widely via WhatsApp, leading to mob violence and over three dozen fatal lynchings in 2017 and 2018. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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Pedestrians use smartphones while walking along a sidewalk in Mumbai. WhatsApp refused a request from the government to reveal the origins of the rumours, citing its promise of privacy and end-to-end encryption for its 40 crore Indian users. It instead offered to fund research into preventing the spread of fake news and mounted a public education campaign in the country, its biggest global market. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Pedestrians use smartphones while walking along a sidewalk in Mumbai. WhatsApp refused a request from the government to reveal the origins of the rumours, citing its promise of privacy and end-to-end encryption for its 40 crore Indian users. It instead offered to fund research into preventing the spread of fake news and mounted a public education campaign in the country, its biggest global market. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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A passenger uses a smartphone while sitting on the back of a motorcycle in Mumbai. WhatsApp will “not compromise on security because that would make people less safe,” it said in a statement Wednesday, adding its global user base had reached over 200 crore. “For even more protection, we work with top security experts, employ industry leading technology to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues—without sacrificing privacy.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A passenger uses a smartphone while sitting on the back of a motorcycle in Mumbai. WhatsApp will “not compromise on security because that would make people less safe,” it said in a statement Wednesday, adding its global user base had reached over 200 crore. “For even more protection, we work with top security experts, employ industry leading technology to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues—without sacrificing privacy.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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In an open letter to India’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, executives from Mozilla Corp., GitHub Inc. and Cloudflare Inc. said the guidelines could lead to “automated censorship” and “increase surveillance.“ In order to be able to trace the originator of content, platforms would basically be required to surveil their users, undermine encryption, and harm the fundamental right to privacy of Indian users, they said. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

In an open letter to India’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, executives from Mozilla Corp., GitHub Inc. and Cloudflare Inc. said the guidelines could lead to “automated censorship” and “increase surveillance.“ In order to be able to trace the originator of content, platforms would basically be required to surveil their users, undermine encryption, and harm the fundamental right to privacy of Indian users, they said. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2020 07:22 PM IST
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