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India clamps down on Twitter, Facebook

India clamps down on Twitter, Facebook
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India on Thursday announced new rules to regulate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, requiring them to set up fresh avenues to address complaints.

In a press release from India's Ministry of Electronics and IT, the guidelines stipulate that social media companies must set up a "grievance redressal mechanism" and appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer — all of whom will be tasked with making sure companies are adhering to the new rules.

The new rules would require companies to take down posts involving sexually explicit content within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. The companies must also push to help identify "the first originator" of some posts and work with law enforcement to address complaints. 

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"The Government acknowledges and respects the right of every Indian to criticize and disagree as an essential element of democracy," the ministry said in a statement. "India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India."

The government also issued new rules for online news publishers that will provide "a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media." Publishers must appoint a grievance redressal officer as well as create a self-regulatory body that is registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

A more detailed version of the guidelines will be released in the near future, the government said, with the new rules set to go into effect in about three months.

“The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuterssaying it welcomed the new rules.

The rules will also apply to streaming platforms like Netflix, Reuters noted, requiring them to classify content into five categories based on the age of users.

“To fix the problems in these sectors the government has adopted an approach which carries the risks of political control and censorship,” executive director for the Internet Freedom Foundation, Apar Gupta, said of the new rules.

The new rules come roughly two weeks after Twitter ignored orders from the Indian government to take down content about the farmers’ protests currently taking place in India.