Yesterday and last night, people started posting their WhatsApp numbers on their Facebook and Instagram handles in case those social media applications get banned by the Indian Government. A big hype as it was, there was a reason behind this panic and the story goes back to February, 2021.
In February this year, the new IT Rules, 2021 were issued. They are controversial because they fundamentally change the Indian internet. At least 6 writ petitions have been filed before 3 high courts challenging them. Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter were given a deadline to comply with these rules. Deadline was till the 25th of May. It was stated that if the companies failed to comply to the government’s demands before the deadline was before, they would face severe consequences – even up to criminal prosecution.
Social media users create content on those platforms, some create while others share. Social media acts as an intermediary. People create content, social media acts as platforms that host it, hence it is an intermediary. Those rules, the IT Rules 2021, apply to social media intermediaries. Intermediaries have immunity, they cannot be held responsible for anything the user posts through it. They cannot be held liable to their user’s content as long as they comply with certain rules set by the government of the country they are operating in.
But would Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp or other social media platforms be banned? It so unlikely that it is safe to say that it would not happen. Why? The answer is simple, just like Facebook agreed to comply with the conditions stated in the IT Rules 2021, other platforms would too. Even if those companies do not comply, the government is unlikely to enforce all the conditions and hold the platforms to account unless it really needs to because then the companies could then move to court to challenge guidelines. The requirement for these companies to have a grievance officers is old, for years after that provision came into being, most platforms did not have a grievance officer. Also, there is zero chance for the Indian government to ban these US based tech giants for simply not complying to what they strictly want them to.
But then it will not be a surprise if the platforms unanimously agree to comply to the guidelines because, let’s be real, they would never want to lose a market as huge as India. After having zero involvement in the Chinese market, these giants would never let Indian users go off their grips. Although Whatsapp has decided to sue the central government as according to them this new rule is an encroachment to their user’s privacy (which it really is), the legal proceedings would go on, matters would be solved and applications would not be banned in all probabilities.