Police in the Indian city of Hyderabad have registered a case against leading social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and TikTok for their alleged anti-national activities in spreading rumors and arousing parochial sentiments during communally volatile situations in some parts of the country.
Hyderabad Cyber Crime Police also served a legal notice to the concerned social networking platforms while launching investigations against them.
According to media reports, a plaintiff named Silveri Srishailam alleged that anti-social elements have been spreading provocative campaigns about the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) through these apps in English, Hindi, and in regional languages.
In his complaint, Srishailam also alleged the sites were working in collaboration with people spreading propaganda to transfer unverified content across the country that disturbed national harmony, the reports added.
Srishailam specifically pointed out the short-video recording app TikTok for allowing people to spread videos mocking Indian leaders and insulting the nation’s sovereignty. Last year, TikTok was also subjected to a temporary ban on the charges of allowing sexually explicit content to be shared on its platform.
India's federal government enacted the CAA in December 2019, which entitled non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who entered India before 2015 to seek Indian citizenship.
The NRC was updated in 2015, but only in the northeastern state of Assam to identify illegal immigrants. However, suggestions by government functionaries to extend such an exercise to the whole of India has created fear among the Muslim community that it is designed by the Hindu-nationalist government to expel those who do not have sufficient documents to prove their citizenship.
There has been no response from these platforms yet.
India is one of the largest markets for apps like WhatsApp and TikTok, which have over 400 million and over 200 million monthly active users in the country. Micro-blogging site Twitter had over 34 million users in 2019 and is also often used to troll and abuse politicians and public figures openly.
In a bid to tackle the spread of misinformation via social networking platforms, India’s IT Ministry proposed an array of intermediary guidelines before the Parliament for websites and app giants operating in the country in November 2018.
The guidelines are intended to be enforced in 2020 and include traceability of the origin of information and activation of automated tools, which would filter and remove public access to "unlawful" information among other features.