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To Put Reins On The Reign…

A couple of days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison dialled his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to discuss various ways to curtail the freedom of the Social Media, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) wrote to Google, asking the US-based Multinational Technology Company to compensate Indian dailies comprehensively for the use of their contents, and to share details of its advertising revenues.

In his letter to Country Manager and Vice President (Sales and Operations) of Google India Sanjay Gupta, INS President L Adimoolam has mentioned that the newspapers spend a huge amount of money to collect and serve informative and credible pieces of news. However, the Netizens get the links of those news contents for free! Google earns big revenues from advertising while republishing those contents. Unfortunately, the scenario deprives the newspaper industry.

Adimoolam has argued that newspapers are still considered as forming the most reliable source of news. The sheer number of fake news stories published online has boosted the credibility of the dailies in recent times, he wrote. The INS chief has reminded Google that revenues from the advertising form the financial backbone of newspaper industry. However, the emergence of the Digital World has hit it hard, as Google is earning huge amount from advertising by using news contents generated by the Media Houses. Hence, Admiloolam has asked Google to increase publisher share of advertising revenue to 85%.

Another problem is that Google often republishes news items from Websites having less credibility. Experts believe that spreading of fake news can be prevented, if Google covers contents from registered newspapers only. Big Media Houses of different countries have started negotiating with Google to get their shares of content price and advertising revenue. As a result, the Multinational Technology Company has been prompted to pay more for republishing news contents in the European Union (EU), France and Australia.

On February 25, the Australian Parliament passed a world-first law, forcing digital giants, such as Facebook and Google, to pay local publishers for news contents. The move will certainly unleash more global regulatory action to limit their power. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a statement, saying that the Law would ensure “news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate”. He stressed: “The code is a significant microeconomic reform, one that has drawn the eyes of the world on the Australian Parliament.

Meanwhile, India, too, has come out with new regulations for Social Networks and other Web Services, especially the Social Media Companies with large user bases, such as Facebook and Twitter. The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has announced that the Social Media Companies would have to establish a Grievance Redressal Mechanism for their users.

India’s move

On February 25, MEITY Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad explained that the Grievance Officers would acknowledge complaints within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days. According to the Indian minister, services would also have to remove nudity and sexually explicit content within 24 hours of a user flagging it. Speaking at a media conference in the Indian capital, Prasad said that a significant number of Social Media intermediaries would have to take additional responsibilities. In order to ensure the same, they should appoint India-based officials for proper enforcement of Law, and also for publishing a monthly report on their moderation activities.

The Government of India has further asked WhatsApp, the significant messaging-focused services of Facebook, to identify the “first originator” of anonymous rumours that could spark violence. So far, the WhatsApp has argued that it would compromise its end-to-end encryption. It is to be noted that India has tightened its overall regulation of foreign Web Companies over the past 12 months.

It seems that the time has come for the State to control the activities of the Social Media platforms in order to safeguard the Fourth Pillar of Democracy.

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