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The Ministry of Telecom and IT has approved an advisory for matrimonial sites that will require them to authenticate users’ copies of identity and address proofs at the time of registering to join matrimonial sites. It will also require them to store the IP address of a profile creator for up to one year after the account is deactivated, reports PTI.

The sites will also have to confirm the “user’s intent to enter into matrimonial alliance”. It’s not clear if the same rules apply to existing users and if they’ll be asked to submit ID proof.

With this, it appears that the government wants to prevent the use of matrimonial sites as dating platforms, put an end to fraudsters misusing the platforms, and prevent posting of obscene materials. Matrimonial sites will have to caution users against fraudulent activities and provide contact details of grievance redressal officers on their platforms.

In another related development, the home ministry plans to release a portal named Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) under the Nirbhaya Fund, developed jointly by the Home and Women & Child Development Ministry to let Indian women post complaints about online harassment. This move came after Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development, stated that online abuse and trolling of women in India should be treated as violence against them. Gandhi gave an example of women in online matrimonial ads who were “targeted with dirty calls late at night, harassed and stalked.”

Besides the telecom and IT ministry, the ministries of women and child development (WCD), home affairs and the National Commission for Women formulated the guidelines on which this advisory is based.

In the works for over a year

In November last year, the government had set up a five-member panel from different ministries to draft guidelines which would set up norms for matrimonial websites. The norms would require users to submit a valid id proof to sign up on such websites.

A year ago, the WCD ministry had also expressed concerns and suggested that Aadhaar should be used to authenticate profiles on matrimonial sites, ostensibly because “there are hundreds of people who register online on matrimony sites every month and there are increasing instances of women being cheated while looking for grooms. There are men who have multiple accounts in different websites.”

Our take

Now that these rules seem to be binding on matrimonial platforms, how long will it take for the government to demand something similar for say social media platforms. Even though Sec 66A of the IT Act was repealed, the debate around freedom of expression on social media sites hasn’t died down. What if tomorrow the government wants citizens to submit ID proof before using Facebook or Twitter?

As we have said earlier, if the government believes that “background checks” are needed for using matrimonial sites, how soon before they decide ALL Internet usage needs to be authenticated? I mean, there are other crimes being committed on the Internet: that’s one way of solving all of the governments Internet related problems, right? People with ID proof commit less crimes, it will soon be proven, because every little thing you do, online or offline will be scrutinised by the government.

Also Read: Section 66A may be back again, with a different name and packaging

Image source: Flickr user Santiago Almada