Trump-Twitter spat: Debate rages on role of social media companies

Though operative parts of the order remain ambiguous and open to legal challenge, experts say the issue brings to the fore the need for putting appropriate responsibilities on digital news entities
A policy debate is brewing in India on the responsibilities and liabilities of social media platforms. This follows the recent Trump-Twitter spat and the subsequent US presidential executive order to remove the protection cloak worn by such platforms.
In the US, as in India and many other countries, social media platforms enjoy certain safeguards from liabilities arising out of the content posted on them.

 
The US executive order gives regulators the power to take action against online platforms that are seen as censoring free speech.

 
Though operative parts of the order remain ambiguous and open to legal challenge, experts say the issue brings to the fore the need for putting appropriate responsibilities on digital news entities and check the dominance of online advertising platforms.

 
A pointer as to how the regulatory landscape in India could evolve for social media platforms and digital news entities is captured in a recent report by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (The Future of News in India: Sustaining Credibility in an Age of Digital Transformation). It examines the digital transformation of Indian digital news environment from a regulatory perspective. The independent study by the policy think-tank suggests an investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) into the role and practices of online advertising platforms.

 
The report noted that digital advertising intermediaries like Google and Facebook occupy a significant place in terms of their market presence in the country. Consequently, their terms of engagement and revenue sharing with publishers merit deeper scrutiny, the report added.

 
“The CCI can initiate an investigation to assess whether such intermediaries are engaged in anti-competitive conduct when it comes to their relationships with digital news publishers in India,” the report said.

 
Highlighting the need for a mechanism for imposition of editorial responsibility on digital news publishers, the report recommends granting limited powers to the Press Council of India for maintaining oversight of digital news in the country. However, the council will have to make structural amendments to include stakeholders from the world of digital news into its fold, the report added.



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