BENGALURU: Open source platforms Mozilla Corp, Cloudfare and Microsoft-owned GitHub have urged the government to share the draft IT Intermediary Guidelines with the public before it notifies the rules by January 15, as per its commitment to the Supreme Court.

“Given your government’s commitment to the Supreme Court of India to notify these rules by January 15, 2020, it is vital that the public has the opportunity to see a final version of these amendments to help ensure that they assuage the concerns which have been voiced by a wide variety of stakeholders during the public consultation,” the companies wrote in a letter to Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“We appeal for this increased transparency and we remain committed to working with you to achieve the broader objective of these amendments while allowing Indians to benefit from a global internet,” they said.

India has been working on the draft guidelines since 2018, aimed at making social media companies such as WhatsApp and Facebook more responsible in checking content on their platforms. The guidelines are also aimed at giving users better recourse in case of misconduct. The guidelines also say that social media companies must ensure traceability to determine the origin of fake news, and those with over five million users set up an India office and a local grievance officer, and must respond to government and court requests for information and takedowns within 72 and 24 hours, respectively. They also seek to ask platforms to develop automated tools to proactively remove unlawful content.

The draft guidelines are an update of rules that were originally notified in April 2011 under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and deal with technology companies’ responsibility in curbing misuse of social media. “We understand and respect the need to ensure the internet is a safe space where large platforms take appropriate responsibility. However, the last version of these amendments which were available in the public domain suggest that the rules will promote automated censorship, tilt the playing field in favour of large players, substantially increase surveillance, and prompt a fragmentation of internet in India that would harm users while failing to empower Indians,” the letter said. ET reported in September that the government was trying to strike the right balance between user privacy and security.

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