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Systematic & Systemic ground work being laid by Modi Govt to convert India into ‘Nanny State’: Cong

12/24/2018

New Delhi, Charging the Narendra Modi Government of seeking to amend ‘The Intermediary Rules, 2011’ governed under the ‘Information Technology Act, 2000’, that provide immunity for online platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for the content which is transmitted and published by end users, the Congress on Monday alleged that a “systematic and systemic ground work is being laid by Modi Government to convert India into a ‘Nanny State’”. The party demanded that the Government withdraw the December 20 order , that allowed central agencies monitor computer data and to place these Draft Amendments in public domain for public consultation “so that India is saved from becoming a Police State”. Talking to reporters here, AICC spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said,’’Modi Government is seeking to amend ‘The Intermediary Rules, 2011’ governed under the ‘Information Technology Act, 2000’. ‘The Intermediary Rules, 2011’provide immunity for online platforms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - big, large, and small - for the content which is transmitted and published by end users. This allows these conduits of information to facilitate a core function of ‘free expression’ and prevents them from throttling content or overbroad censorship, thus securing our privacy. 'In return, the ISP’s have to comply with legal requests for takedown of content and providing information on users - basically comply with the law. This was a principle recognized in Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended in 2008). Now, Government authorities shall be legally ending this immunity to ISP’s- which may lead to gross misuse of data by them, especially for political purposes. Modi Government will hold the key to the personal/professional data of all sections. Be it a journalist whose ‘sources’ for a particular story can now be traced or be it any opposition leader – whose strategy/discussions shall now become open to Government scrutiny. Be it bureaucrats/officers- who do not often toe the ruling political party’s line or be it businessmen whose ‘ease of doing business’ shall now be hampered by harassment or be it ordinary citizens whose private conversations shall now become a ‘de-crypted’ file in Govt’s offices. Nobody will have the fundamental Right to Privacy and all this will only lead to an Inspector Raj,’’ Mr Singhvi said. He said that the amendments in the rules, coming close on the heels of the Home Ministry notification directing ten central agencies to monitor computer data, was part of a ‘Systematic and Systemic Ground Work being laid by Modi Government to convert India into a ‘Nanny State’ ‘’Modi Government seems to be seeking major technical changes in such platforms as that use encryption. With the requirement of traceability of end-to-end, the platform will either need to be substantially altered or completely done away with. In a nutshell either end to end encryption platforms will be dead leading to exposure of the data, calls, messages of ordinary people to Government monitoring or the platforms will just need to be adapted at the whims and fancies of the Modi Government. This is the perfect recipe to ensure a ‘Nanny State’! Modiji’s ‘Gujarat Model’ of Snooping has now reached humongous proportions,’’ he said. Terming the alleged move by the Government as one seeking to undermine legitimate speech by requiring online platforms to become pro-active arbiters and judges of legality (not their own terms of use which is a contract between the user and a platform), Mr Singhvi said ,’’this colossally violates legal foundations, principles of natural justice and treats ‘Everyone as Criminal’. It also shifts the duty of the state to a private party.’’ ‘’The short point is that the Modi Government wants to create a Surveillance State but in their unseemly and tearing hurry, they have made an ugly mess of even this like in everything else. The Clarification issued by the Home Ministry on December 21 for the December 20 order, shows that under public pressure, Modi Government developed cold feet and is trying to put a fig leaf of propriety as an afterthought. Similarly, if these amendments go through, these would be a tremendous expansion in the power of a ‘Big Brother’ government over ordinary citizens, reminiscent of eerie dictatorships! Congress party’s single point demand is to withdraw the December 20 order and to place these Draft Amendments in public domain for public consultation so that India is saved from becoming a Police State,’’Mr Singhvi said. Alleging that the Narendra Modi Government did not put these draft rules out for any kind of deliberation or public consultation, Mr Singhvi said,’’these draft rules are now available in the public domain, thanks to privacy activists and media- but the Modi Government did even not put these out for any kind of deliberation or public consultation.This is a remarkable shift from 2011, when under Congress-UPA; these draft rules were placed online for public consultation by the Ministry of Electronics and IT.' 'As reported in the media, this entire process is closed and is being held between officials of the Ministry of Electronics and IT and a handful of large social media and messaging companies who have been allowed to give comments by January 7. We want to know as to why is the public being kept out of this deliberation? Why is there NO public consultation,’’ Mr Singhvi observed.

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