Facebook Controversy: Why India Is Important To The Company

Facebook’s new policy seems to be dipping the company in hot water. The company’s new policy that will allow cross-sharing of analytics among its apps (WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram) has been frowned upon especially by India’s Government since it was announced.

Facebook is still preparing to effect its new privacy policy update even with India’s stance on the policy. Going ahead with this could cost Facebook its Indian market. The Indian market is just too important for Facebook because of the huge digital population. Currently in India, the top 5 most popular and most used apps are WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Three out of the aforementioned are owned and provided by Facebook, which is the largest and most influential social media platform in the country.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT revealed figures in a press statement and they show that Facebook is the most dominant social media company and has the most users in the country. According to the Ministry, India has 53 crore (530 million) WhatsApp users, YouTube ranks as the second app with the most users with 44.8 crore (440.8 million), Facebook 41 crore (410 million) users, Instagram 21 crore (210 million) users and Twitter 1.7 crore (10.7 million) users.

Facebook’s reason for its new privacy policy update is to share analytics among its various platforms. This is good for business and will enable the company to create a digital profile for ads whether users use Facebook or not. India has a total of 115 crore (1.15 billion) users across Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Now imagine what these numbers could achieve when linked together.

According to India’s Government, there has been the lack of accountability for social media companies like Facebook and this is what the Government aims to change with its Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

According to the Information Technology Rules 2021, ‘India is the world’s largest open internet society and the government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the constitutions and laws of India’. The Government’s basis for creating this new framework for social media’s operation in the country is to build a barrier against fake news, tackle pornography, counter unethical corporate rivalry, reduce defamatory and abusive language, deal with disrespect to religion and the use of social media as a weapon by criminals.

India’s Government is making it compulsory for Facebook (and other social media companies) to follow its compliance rules, and promises that if these companies do not comply, ‘safe harbour provisions will not apply to them’. Other things India’s Government want social media companies to do include; appoint a Chief Compliance Officer whose job would be to ensure compliance with the rules, appoint a Nodal Contact Person who will work with the law enforcement agents 24/7, appoint a Resident Grievance Officer as a way of ensuring accountability, publish a monthly compliance report, include the identification of the first originator of information (companies can no longer use ‘end-to-end encryption as an excuse of not being able to identify the source of an information or post, this will only be required for investigative purposes).

Facebook is left in a take-it-or-leave-it situation and with 1.15 billion users across all its platforms, one cannot really imagine what the company’s next course of action will be.

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