Bloomberg: India may soon make controversial social media rules official

Under the rules, the government can compel social media platforms to reveal users' identities without a warrant.

The Indian government might soon publish a set of controversial rules that could give it access to the identities of social networking and messaging app users. According to Bloomberg, India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is expected to publish the new rules later this month without making major changes to previous drafts.

That means the provisions in earlier drafts still remain, including one that would require platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok to help the government trace the origins of a post within 72 hours even without a warrant or a judicial order. In addition, they have to disable the poster's access to the platform within 24 hours, remove any content when asked and preserve their records for at least 180 days to help government investigators.

They also have to establish a brick-and-mortar operation within India, as well as appoint a "grievance officer" who'll serve as the government's liaison. Bloomberg says officials are still finalizing the language, though, so the details may still be altered even if the rules don't undergo major changes.

If the rules become official, they'll cover all social media and messaging applications, though it's unclear if the Indian government could also ask the companies for foreign users' identities. As privacy advocates warn, platforms would have would have to break their own end-to-end encryption and spy on their users to adhere to the new guidelines. When the rules were first proposed, The Internet and Mobile Association of India, which represent Google, Facebook and Twitter, called them arbitrary and a "violation of the right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court."