Soon, what you upload on Facebook and Youtube will be monitored by the country’s intelligence agencies. With social media firms, including Google and Facebook, declining to monitor content on their Web pages, the Government plans to do the job on its own.

At a high-level meeting chaired by the National Security Advisor, it has decided to authorise five agencies, including the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation, to monitor the Web and social media services for malicious content that could disturb law and order.

This comes in the backdrop of recent disturbances in Assam followed by mass exodus of people from various parts of the country back to their homes in the North-East, and other similar instances.

The Government will also formulate new laws that clarify the legal position on whether the law of the land or the law of the countries where the Internet companies are headquartered will take precedence in cyberspace. This is important because Internet companies including Google and Facebook have repeatedly said they will comply only with US laws. Indian authorities want the social networks to conform to local laws and sensitivities when it comes to blocking Web content.

“This will introduce predictability with regard to what kind of content is liable to be regulated and for how long,” said a Government source. The Department of IT and Electronics will prepare this policy paper outlining the structure and mandate of the proposed mechanism.

A standard operating procedure will also be set up to set in motion the response of the Government and the service providers. At present Internet firms are told either verbally or through an executive order to block content. There is also no clarity on the type of content that needs to be blocked, because of which sometimes, social media firms are told to block political messages or images, which may have no implications for law and order. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will prepare the new guidelines and the standard operating procedure.

“It was felt that the regulatory regime should be enforced judiciously and with discrimination by one centralised agency — the MHA — for law and order related cases. The present enforcement mechanism should be reviewed to provide reasonable flexibility needed for a graded response,” the source said.

The meeting was attended by Chairman NTRO; Secretary, Department of Telecom; Director of Intelligence Bureau and Director-General of Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), among others.

(This article was published on September 14, 2012)
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