WhatsApp users shouldn’t worry, but won’t compromise with India’s digital sovereignty: Ravi Shankar Prasad

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WhatsApp users have nothing to fear about new social media rules, says Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Social media companies operating in India will have to follow law of the land and double standards won’t be tolerated, said Union IT & Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Firday. In an exclusive conversation with Rajat Sharma, Editor-In-Chief and Chairman, India TV in Aaj Ki Baat, the Union Minister spoke extensively on the ongoing tussle between social media companies including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, others and government over new guidelines for operating in the country.

Speaking over new guidelines for social media and messaging companies like WhatsApp and whether there was any possibility of them being banned in the country, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said WhatsApp won’t shut in India and normal users should not worry.

“WhatsApp users have nothing to fear about new social media rules, that are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal,” the Union Minister said.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad said social media companies have to tell the origin of any message being circulated on their platform if it poses threat to national security, public order, rape, and child sexual abuse.

Slamming social media companies for their ‘double standards’, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said they give the same information in United States, Europe other countries, but are hesitating in complying the same in India.

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Hitting out at WhatsApp which is giving excuses like threat to users’ privacy for following new IT rules, Union Minister said where did their privacy policy go when the messaging platform mentioned sharing users’ data with other business companies in its new privacy policy.

Slamming Twitter, Prasad said, “Twitter can say Ladakh as part of China… can suspend accounts of those who provoked attack on Capitol Hill… but acts differently when India’s Red Fort is attacked… such double standards won’t be tolerated”

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Companies will have to abide by the law of the land, the Union minister said.

Speaking on cops entering Twitter’s office, Prasad said, “What’s wrong if the police visit Twitter office for questioning since officials didn’t respond to earlier summons.”

On Twitter already having fact checkers, Ravi Shankar Prasad further hit out at the micro-blogging site asking, “Is it necessary for Twitter to hire only those fact checkers who are against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier on Thursday, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government welcomes criticism including the right to ask questions.

“The rules only empower the ordinary users of social media when they become victims of abuse and misuse,” Prasad posted on homegrown micro-blogging platform Koo, and also tweeted.

The government fully recognises and respects the right of privacy, he asserted.

What are new IT rules  

The new IT rules require the social media companies to set up an India-based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer and nodal officer “so that millions of users of social media who have a grievance get a forum for its redressal”, he said.

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“Ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new Rules. Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to the commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the Rules,” Prasad added.

The obligation to reveal the originator of an offensive message already in circulation relates only to offences relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order, rape, and child sexual abuse.

“That too when other less intrusive measures are not effective,” the Minister said.

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