We call on MEITY in our counter comments to withdraw the proposed changes to the Intermediary rules. They are unconstitutional and open to legal challenge. #ITRules #SaveOurPrivacy #RightToMeme

The draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2018 must be recalled. They are unconstitutional and against the fundamental rights of privacy and free speech of Indians.

16 February, 2019
3 min read

Highlights

  • Background: The draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2018 were opened to public consultation. Initial comments from various civil society organisations and industry groups were released to counter-comments till February 14, 2019.  
  • Recall the proposed changes: We submit our counter-comments to MEITY showing our support for the concerns of Civil society Organisations while contesting the submissions of some corporates and industry bodies that would hurt online privacy and freedom of speech.  
  • We will challenge if these changes are made: We have clearly stated in our counter-comments that we intend to support and explore all legal remedies if these unconstitutional changes come to pass. We will continue to champion the fundamental rights of ordinary Indians who use the internet.  

Why should you be concerned?

Do you want china style restrictions on the way you can use the Internet? Neither do we. The changes proposed to the Intermediary Rules in the guise of safety, do just that. Curb your right to freedom of speech and to privacy. Previously, we explained to you that these Rules affect you whether you are an individual (click here to read) or a start-up (click here to read).

These proposed changes were put to a process of consultation that ended yesterday night. In our counter-comments, we put together the tremendous support shown from Civil Society Organisations highlighting the unconstitutionality of these proposed changes (click here to read our counter comments). We stand with these Organisations in the fight for your freedoms as we submit our counter comments to MEITY.

However, there are always two sides to a coin. A few Industry Groups and companies are in complete support of these Rules. For instance, Reliance Jio states that, “We strongly recommend that the intermediary should enable tracing out of originator of such information on its platform, which will help Government agencies identify the originator of such misleading information and hold them accountable in order to maintain cybersecurity.” Sounds a little like a neighbouring country!

Defending our constitutional promises

Apar Gupta, Executive Director at the Indian Freedom Foundation in an interview with The New York Times warned, "This is very similar to what China does to its citizens, where it polices their every move and tracks their every post on social media".

Throughout this process, we have tried to ensure these Rules are recalled. The Rules allow for ‘tracking’ through the weakening of end-to-end encryption, it necessitates providing the Government with information at the drop of a hat and also the removal of content on the internet based on still developing automated tools. These changes mean the information you send over applications could be traced by the Government. An intermediary could be required to provide any information about you. Anything you post on the Internet that is considered ‘unlawful’ could be taken down. These are just a few examples.

Fundamental Rights are a constitutional promise to every Indian. But these rules are an affront to our civil liberties.

Video Explainers

Want to learn more? We collaborated with Bisbo (a youtube creator) to create video explainers in multiple Indian languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi more to follow...). Do watch them and send them to your college and family Whatsapp groups! The Rules are unconstitutional and violate our fundamental right to privacy and to freedom of speech and expression. But, if these Rules were to be passed in their present form you can be assured Internet Freedom Foundation will explore all means to challenge them - this includes going to court.

We’ll continue to show our love for the free and open internet so you can show your love on the Internet!

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