Jeff Paine, Managing Director of Asia Internet Coalition, has released an open statement (pdf) regarding India’s current proposed intermediary liability guidelines, expressing deep concern regarding users’ privacy and free speech.

AIC’s statement to MeitY states that the current draft rules “fall short of India’s legal precedents and laws around privacy and free speech.”

It adds that, “While Internet intermediaries fully support addressing issues like malicious misinformation, we strongly feel that blanket regulation that is overly broad and contains vague and ambiguous language will jeopardise citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy and free speech.”

It urges the government and policy makers to take a ‘long-term view and avoid reactive regulation.. To ensure that Indian consumers and small businesses benefit from global digital opportunities.’

The AIC is an association whose current members are AirBnB, Amazon, Apple, Expedia Group, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, LINE, Rakuten, Twitter, Booking.com and Yahoo (Oath). The group has also submitted its response (pdf) to MeitY’s Draft of “The Information Technology [Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment)] Rules 2018 (Draft Rules).

From its submission, the association concludes that “.. any legislation that regulates intermediaries ought to take cognizance of the prevailing procedure established by law, judicial precedents, and global practices. The Draft Rules, to a large extent, disregard several principles upheld by the SC and the provisions of its parent legislation, the IT Act. To ensure that companies in the Indian market enhance the services offered to users, any regulation affecting the privacy of users and their rights to exercise their freedom of speech on such platforms cannot be shadowed by additional, onerous obligations on intermediaries.. ”

New rules encourage censorship and surveillance: Mozilla, Wikimedia, Github

AIC’s statement comes on the same day as 3 internet companies Mozilla, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the now Microsoft-owned GitHub wrote an open letter to RS Prasad, the Union Minister of Electronics and IT. In their letter, the companies said that the current proposal “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for creation, collaboration, access to knowledge, and innovation to a tool of automated censorship and surveillance of its users.”

Amongst these three companies, Mozilla has also previously called these draft rules blunt and disproportionate raising concerns about “over censorship and chilling free expression.” Amba Kak, public policy advisor at Mozilla, said that the proposed law disproportionately weakened the present intermediary liability protections. “Any regulatory intervention on this complex issue must be preceded by a wide ranging and participatory consultation process,” she said in the statement.

MeitY seeks public comments on changes to IT Rules till 15 January

Our Intermediary Liability coverage here.