The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has joined other major Internet players in calling on the Indian government to reconsider proposed changes to India’s internet laws,media reported. The letter was submitted by Amanda Keton, General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation, to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of the Electronicand and Information Technology Alliance. In their letter, they said the proposal would seriously affect Wikipedia’s open-use and editing model and would be financially and implemented. The letter suggests that imposing the changed rules as a new law could prevent Wikipedia from continuing to visit India, although it was not explicitly stated.
In December 2018, the Indian government proposed a series of changes to the “intermediary” rules of India’s Internet law. As part of these changes, the government is defining “intermediary” apps as apps with more than 5 million users on the platform. Under the new rules, such applications and services will be required to establish local offices in the country and to employ at least one senior employee who will be responsible for any legal issues arising from the content of the services.
In Keton’s words, “the proposed changes could have a serious impact on Wikipedia’s open editing model, impose a significant financial burden on non-profit technology organizations, and potentially limit the right of free expression of Internet users across India.” “As Keton pointed out in his letter to India’s IT minister, the main concern is the size of internet companies, the operating model and the differentiation of other such assessment factors.
Part of the letter reads: “The draft bill requires that the most adverse effects on websites be mitigated by introducing a definition of social media ‘intermediary’ and by adopting a layered approach to obligations under the Data Protection Act 2019 (section 26). It places different demands on important trustees. However, even with this approach, we remain concerned about the requirement to encourage or require a short period of deletion to explicitly or implicitly automatically filter user uploads and can seriously undermine Wikipedia’s availability and reliability. “
The proposed requirements for new Internet rules also represent a fundamental question of how companies are responsible for content. Under current law, the responsibility for illegal, incorrect, or intentionally misleading content rests with the publisher and then on the company’s representatives. However, the revised proposal suggests that technology companies with more than 5 million users on the platform oversee all content and proactively remove any illegal content through a supervised automated model.