NEW DELHI: The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) has written an open letter to union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar, urging them to withdraw the Intermediary Rules, 2021, which aim to govern online content and regulate social media platforms.
The letter calls the new rules “unconstitutional” as they impinge upon an individual’s right to information. “We must remember that the people at large have a right to know in order to be able to take part in a participatory development in the industrial life and democracy,” the letter reads, adding that digital media and online news platforms have done the invaluable task of “holding the government accountable.”
“Now it seems that the government seeks to remove this ‘irritant’ through the seemingly benign avatar of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 202,” the letter states.
AIPF was founded in 2015 as a collective backed by the Left with the aim to strengthen “democratic values” by backing people’s movements.
The union government had notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 under the Information Technology Act, 2020, on February 25. Activists had condemned the move, pointing out that the IT Act does not have the legal purview to regulate digital media. They had also called its passage “opaque” and questioned the complete lack of consultation around the new rules warning that their implementation would lead to “political censorship”.
Advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation executive director Apar Gupta shared the letter, asking concerned netizens to sign it. The letter also raises concerns about the rules violating an individual’s right to privacy.
“Intermediaries including Signal and Whatsapp can henceforth be forced to trace the ‘first originator’ of any message, which would require a dilution of end-to-end encryption. To meet this requirement, intermediaries would be require to store data, which would further weaken the privacy of users. Without end-to-end encryption, we cannot be sure who has access to our messages. This will create an effect where people may be afraid to communicate using IM platforms,” the letter reads.