India has been struggling to make the foreign websites, especially the social media websites, to fall in line with Indian laws. However, foreign websites are in no mood to comply with the wishes of Indian government. Naturally, the cyber litigation against foreign websites in India is going to increase.
In some cases this refusals is wrong and is a clear violation of Indian laws whereas in other cases this refusal is justified as no government can be allowed to impose its own e-surveillance and eavesdropping dreams upon public platforms that are helping exercising the speech and expression.
In the former category comes those websites that do not comply with Indian laws by citing their own laws and privacy policies. Foreign websites operating in India must comply with Indian laws and not the laws and policies of their native nation.
In the later category comes those websites that are complying with the laws of India as per the requirements of Indian constitution but are not willing to accede to Indian government’s desires to censor their respective platforms. In such cases take down notices are rightly refused by these websites.
Recently the U.S. government refused to serve Indian summons on U.S. websites citing constitutional protections. Naturally, Indian government is left with no choice but to forget about its demands. However, Indian government is not willing to let it go lightly.
As an alternative, Indian government has been asking the telecom service providers and foreign companies to establish servers in India so that Indian law enforcement and intelligence agencies can have unlimited access to the relevant information they are seeking. Similarly, Indian government has also launched the central monitoring system (CMS) of India that can help it in analysing various information and data on real time basis.
However, this would not solve the main problem that Indian government is facing. Social media platforms have the capability to shape public opinion and launch unlimited attacks or support for the ruling government. They have significant impact upon the thought process of Indian population and if we keep in mind the previous record of foreign social media websites, they cannot be regulated as per the wishes of Indian government.
China has faced similar problem and it launched its own social media websites by banning and blocking the foreign social media websites. However, India is planning to play safe in this regard as it may not wish to violate civil liberties in cyberspace.
Recently the idea of formulating guidelines for social media contents regulations in India was mooted. Before that the idea of pre screening of contents at social media websites was out rightly rejected by both social media platforms and those using them.
If this is not enough, the Indian government has also decided to ask internet service providers and mobile phone companies to ensure that Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are bifurcated as per the States territory. This may allow the Indian government to block social networking or pornography or hate speech or MLM frauds and other websites and even internet telephony in select States or regions in India. However, as on date websites blocking is India is purely a judicial act as websites in India are blocked only after a court order.
However, it is not the case that social media websites are playing with the laws of India. On the contrary, the social media websites are helping in furthering civil liberties in cyberspace and are encouraging expression of free speech and expression. Social media websites are also very good at protecting privacy of its users that is missing in India. In India we have no dedicated data protection law in India. Similarly, we have no dedicated privacy laws in India and data security laws in India as well.
In these circumstances, the idea of launching Indian social media websites would be a big failure. If India really wishes to make such an idea a big success it must first create the environment for the same with which the users may be comfortable. With government committed to indulge in unlawful and unlimited e-surveillance and impose projects like Aadhaar and CMS, this seems to be a distant dream only.