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Govt of India says law of abetment applies to social media platforms if they do not act on large scale misuse

A social media platform cannot evade their "responsibility, accountability and larger commitment to ensure that its platform is not misused on a large scale to spread incorrect facts projected as news and designed to instigate people to commit crime," IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Parliament said in the Rajya Sabha on the 26th of July 2018. Worryingly, he added that "If they do not take adequate and prompt action, then the law of abetment also applies to them." The minister was speaking during during a "Calling Attention Motion" discussion in Parliament, on "Rising Incidents of Violence and lynching in the country due to misuse of social media platforms". India has seen a spate of mob violence and Internet Shutdowns over the last two years: around 29 incidents of lynchings fueled by rumours of gangs kidnapping children, and several other instances which have led to over 90 Internet Shutdowns already this year. The Minister said that, just when there is provocative writing in newspapers, the newspaper cannot say that it is not responsible, if there is "fake unconfirmed news" on social media, because of which people are dying or being instigated to kill, then they [platforms] are also responsible. MediaNama's Take: This seems to be in contradiction to Section 79 of the IT Act, which provides safe harbor to intermediaries (platforms and aggregators) against liability for how users use them, as long as they don't have "actual knowledge" of the infringing content. These Intermediary Liability protections ensure that platforms can scale…

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Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

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