- Background: In December, a private meeting was held by Ministry Officials with social media companies and industry associations. In this disturbing changes to the the Intermediary Rules were suggested. They would hurt our online privacy and be a massive blow to free speech online.
- Roll back this consultation: We made it a point to explain to you the damaging effect it would have on your online freedom but we are not alone. Many other digital rights organisations have articulated a principled and powerful opposition to these proposed changes.
- You can help: Send an email right now. We tell you how at the end of this post.
Why are any changes to the Intermediary Rules important?
Intermediary rules impact all of us. Think about the legal rules that govern your ISP (think : Airtel, Idea-Vodafone, Jio or others), or a large social media platforms (Wikipedia, Github, Facebook, Sharechat, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter etc.), even small start-up online services you use and enjoy (for me it is personally IndianKanoon). Any changes to these rules not only massively change your online experience but also threaten your online privacy and free speech. In this context, the proposed changes to them gain importance.
What changes have been proposed ?
In changes proposed late last year (read more here for context) the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules, 2011. This was initially done privately and after an Indian Express report, and us publicly disclosing them in full, MEITY acknowledged them and opened a public consultation. But there are problems with these proposed changes much beyond the initial secrecy. And it's just not us saying this. Many other groups are taking leadership on this issue.
There seems to be somewhat of an unanimous response of several civil society organisations and research groups for the government to reconsider these proposed changes. Even though many have articulated different reasoning, emphasised a range of problems – constitutional, policy oriented, economic and technical. They all seem to be in broad agreement that these rules are bad for users, internet companies and the internet. They would hurt your privacy and online free speech without making you safer in any meaningful way. Even we in our submissions to an ongoing public consultation have made a clear call to MEITY to reboot this entire exercise (read here for more).
But, don't take only our work for it. We have tabulated a table (PDF or Google Docs) with the voice of digital rights and research organisations who in 16 separate submissions make a common point. The proposed changes to Intermediary Rules must be reconsidered, if not recalled.
What can you do to help ?
Simple, send an email to MEITY. This will not take more than a few minutes.
- Step 1: Create a covering email with the subject, "Proposed Changes to IT Rules", which reads for instance as:
“I support the attached spreadsheet which quotes digital rights and research groups in their submissions against the unconstitutional provisions of The Information Technology Rules 2018 that will affect my Right to Privacy and Freedom of Speech online. I call on you to recall the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules, 2011”
- Step 2: Attach the sheet of comments (PDF or Google Docs) by digital rights and research organisations.
In the initial public comments only close to a 100 comments were sent to MIETY. Surely, we can do better. The last date for submission is February 14, 2019. This valentines day we have a moment to show how much we love the free and open internet.
Links and Documents
- Sheet with extracts comments by digital rights and research organisations (PDF or Google Docs).
- IFF's post on the submission to MEITY. "Press reboot on the Intermediary Rules" #SaveOurPrivacy #RightToMeme
- Full text of IFF's submission to MEITY on the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules.
- Post revealing the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules with initial analysis
- Our Work: We are a civil liberties advocacy organisation focusing on technology and fundamental rights. Working across the spectrum -- with expertise in free speech, digital surveillance and privacy, net neutrality and innovation -- we champion human freedom in the digital space. Our aim is to ensure that people in the world's largest democracy are able to use technology with liberty and justice guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
- Transparency: As a non-profit registered under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act we go beyond regulatory requirements for greater accountability and transparency. We publish detailed financial information and supplement that with monthly updates on social media of our fundraising and expenses. We view our donors as a community and remain in touch with them with monthly email updates and personal conversations.
IFF works hard to protect your rights. So all of us can use the most innovative technology that makes your life better without harming our fundamental freedoms. Together we are winning these battles. Help us! Donate right now!
(If we have left out your organisation or submission is not listed in this table reach out us and we will fix it. We appreciate and recognise the leadership and work of all digital rights and research organisations working on this issue)