ShareChat – an Indian-developed networking platform that bagged a hefty investment of $100 million from the US-based micro-blogging site Twitter in October 2019, has requested the Indian government to adopt stricter laws for international social networking players.
In a letter addressed to India’s Communications and Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, ShareChat has urged that global social networking platforms with one million daily active users must be answerable to Indian authorities and set-up their offices in India to incorporate the domestic storage of data.
The app, which has over 100 million downloads on Google Play has also pushed the idea of the government drafting new rules that would mandate online networking giants to allow authorities to trace messages and report compliance.
ShareChat’s letter to Prasad comes just a week before the government of India plans to change the Intermediaries Guidelines under the country’s IT Act.
In November 2018, India’s IT Ministry proposed an array of intermediary guidelines before the Parliament for websites and app giants in the country.
The guidelines that are intended to be enforced by mid-January 2020 include the traceability of the origin of information and activation of automated tools, which would filter and remove public access to "unlawful" information among other features.
The proposed set of new rules has ignited concerns among international social networking majors, especially ones headquartered in the US.
The US wants India to ensure that its data localisation plan treats American companies fairly, allowing them to compete. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added India should ensure that its plan does not “stymie growth".
In 2019, Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp repeatedly locked horns with the government of India over refusing to let authorities investigate the chats of those suspected of being involved in spreading fake news to a population of over 1.3 billion.
Recently, popular US-headquartered online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has expressed concerns that the new guidelines by India could disrupt the working of its model.
In a letter addressed to Prasad, Wikipedia’s parent organisation Wikimedia expressed concerns that the automated filtering of information and immediate requirements to pull out content would interfere with the online encyclopaedia’s working model, which allows the real-time editing of data on its website.
The final outcome and repercussions of India’s amended guidelines will only emerge after the new rules come into effect.