India's new IT law increases surveillance powers
The new law frees Internet portals from responsibility for third party content
A new IT law has come into force in India that frees Internet portals from liability for third-party content and activity, but also gives the government powers to monitor communications on the Internet, and block web sites that are found to be offensive.
The Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 was passed by the Indian Parliament in December last year, about a month after terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and reflects the government's concern that the Internet is being extensively used by terrorists to communicate and plan their activities. It entered force Tuesday, according to a news release from India's Ministry of Communications & Information Technology on the web site of the government's Press Information Bureau.
The rules for blocking web sites under certain conditions have come in for criticism, as they leave the decision in the hands of bureaucrats. "I will be given a chance to present my case after my site has been blocked, and I will be heard by bureaucrats," Vijay Mukhi, an expert on issues related to cyber regulation, said on Tuesday. The blocking of sites should be done instead through a court of law, he added.
While interception of online communications may be justified in certain circumstances, because of the terrorist threat to the country, the government has to put mechanisms in place to ensure that the information collected through such interception is not misused, Mukhi said. "I am worried about misuse through business espionage, and loss of personal privacy," Mukhi added. He recommended the setting up of an organization like an ombudsman to keep a check on misuse of information.
Some of the provisions for surveillance and blocking of web sites were present in the earlier Information Technology Act 2000, but were not implemented with any seriousness, Mukhi said.
Section 79 of the new Act meets a demand by Internet companies, including Google, that they should not be held responsible for offensive content or communications using services provided by these companies. The correspondign section of the earlier act held network service providers liable unless they could prove that the offense or contravention was committed without their knowledge or that they had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such an offense or contravention.
The new section 79 removes the liability of intermediaries in these kind of situations, unless it is proven that they were in connivance with the offender, or did not act quickly, when notified, to remove the offensive material.
The onus of proving that the intermediary has not shown due diligence, or that the offense or contravention was done with the connivance of the intermediary, now shifts to the individual complainant, said Pavan Duggal, a cyber law consultant and advocate in India's Supreme Court, in an interview earlier this year.
The amendment blocks out effective remedies for ordinary users, as they will not have access to records of the intermediary, and will never be able to prove that the intermediary conspired or abetted in the commission of an offense, Duggal added.
India Descends Into Extreme Internet Censorship
from the censorship-in-effect dept
A year and a half ago, we noted some new laws and plans for laws in India that would likely lead to widespread censorship of the internet in that country, and a commenter on that post just alerted us to the news that some of these ridiculous new laws have gone into effect. They're incredibly vague, and get the liability question backwards, demanding that ISPs proactively police and remove content that is "objectionable," "disparaging," "harassing," "blasphemous" and "hateful." Talk about vague. Suddenly, service providers have incentive to over aggressively block all sorts of stuff, just to avoid liability. The law also requires sites to remove content within 36 hours if law enforcement says it's objectionable -- without even notifying whoever put that content up. Think how easy this is to abuse by anyone in government who just doesn't like some type of content. Such a law is clearly a censorship law.
Bizarrely, the Indian government insists that there's nothing wrong with these laws, and that they're "comparable to any international cyber laws." Here's the thing: the spokesperson is rightif you include copyright laws. Copyright laws, such as the DMCA, are really the only equivalent international laws (if you're not talking about some place like China, which the Indian government insists it's not) that allow for such a takedown upon notice. So, realistically, it appears that India is justifying its broad censorship laws with US copyright laws. Of course, we've been saying for a while that more countries would do this, but copyright maximalists continue to insist that's crazy.
Decoding IT Rules 2011: How it affects Internet industry and its users
Following an United Nations resolution in 1997, India enacted its Information Technology Act 2000. It was a very basic law and dealt mostly with legal recognition of electronic documents, digital signatures, cyber crime and punishment.
The Act was significantly amended when the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 came into being. The 2008 amendment focused on information security, cyber terrorism and data protection. The latest IT rules, notified in April 2011, have already created a flutter with some stringent privacy norms.
ET goes beyond the Legalese to find out how the recent changes in India's National IT Law affects the internet industry - and its different arms:
Google, Facebook warn on Internet rules at e-G8
PARIS: Google Inc Chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg warned governments to tread lightly on Internet regulation because moves to tame its rough edges risked hurting its virtues.
At the conclusion of a two-day forum in Paris, their comments exposed deep rifts between tech titans, academics and policy makers even as they tried to agree on a message to take to world leaders at the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting on Thursday in Deauville, France.
With the forum, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was seeking to put his stamp on the debate over regulating the Internet and encouraging the digital economy during his one-year term as president for the G8.
Despite a glittering guest list, the event dubbed the e G8 ended up with few concrete policy recommendations and mostly vague conclusions that the delegation of six technology chief executives, including Schmidt and Zuckerberg, will present to leaders in Deauville on Thursday.
The outcome highlights the difficulty of finding a way to regulate the Internet that is acceptable to both governments and industry.
Zuckerberg, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who created the social network with 500 million users around the world, was greeted like a rock star during a question-and-answer session on Wednesday and praised for creating a tool that helped touch off democracy movements in the Arab world.
"People tell me on the one hand 'it's great you played such a big role in the Arab spring, but its also kind of scary because you enable all this sharing and collect information on people'," said Zuckerberg, who was clad in a T-shirt and jeans.
"But it's hard to have one without the other .... You can't isolate some things you like about the Internet and control other things that you don't."
Schmidt sounded a similar note earlier when he told the assembly: "Technology will move faster than governments, so don't legislate before you understand the consequences."
The divisions on copyright proved too large to be bridged, as well as the question of how the burden of investing in telecommunications networks should be shared among telecom operators and the Web giants that rely on them.
At the final panel intended to finalise the message to the G8 leaders, Schmidt squared off with Vivendi CEO Jean Bernard Levy over copyright issues.
Levy, whose company puts out music and video games that are often pirated, said: "I don't think you can compromise on copyright. It's the right of the artist to decide how his work is used."
Schmidt shot back: "I would be opposed to any absolute statements. Copyright is not an absolute right; it is a shared right. Copyright in one form or another is a balance of interests."
Maurice Levy , chief executive of advertising firm Publicis , which is hosting the conference, said they didn't have to resolve the many debates over the Internet's future.
"We are not going to Deauville with a list of grievances or requirements," said Levy at the close of the forum. "We are going with the idea of sharing our points of view and to have an exchange with leaders."