The centre has asked for more time - 3 months - to frame rules to regulate hate speech, fake news, defamatory posts and anti-national activities on social media platforms. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court today, the government said there had been an exponential increase in such messages and posts and greater control of the internet and social media platforms were needed to to help protect national security. The affidavit was filed after the top court asked the government what steps were being taken in this regard.
Last month the Supreme Court gave the government three weeks to make recommendations that protect the "sovereignty of the State, privacy of an individual and prevention of illegal activities".
"On one hand technology has led to economic growth. On the other hand there is a huge rise in fake news, etc. (The) internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity," the centre's affidavit said.
"(There is a) need to frame effective rules, felt in view of the ever-growing threats to individual rights and nation' integrity, sovereignty and security. Three more months (are needed) to finalise the rules in view of the complexities involved," the affidavit continued.
On September 24, Justice Deepak Gupta, who is heading the two-judge bench that is hearing this matter, expressed concern over some nefarious uses of technology in the modern world.
"It is dangerous the way the technology is going. After the last hearing I researched and found I could buy an Ak-47, on the dark web, in 30 minutes," he said, adding, "I was telling someone I want to give up my smartphone".
The court was responding to a petition filed by Facebook and WhatsApp seeking the transfer of cases, pending at Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts, concerning demand to link Aadhaar. The social media giants had argued that decisions in these cases would have national security ramifications and therefore should be decided by the top court of the land.
However, last month the court made it clear the issue at hand was tracking down original senders of fake news and messages that have led to mob attacks and killings.
WhatsApp also came under scrutiny by the Home Ministry last year in a bid to foil communication between terrorists - especially in areas like Jammu and Kashmir.
"WhatsApp calling and messaging have now become the preferred medium of communication for anti-national forces and we are right now clueless about keeping a tab on it," an officer told NDTV.
The centre had earlier indicated it could take legal action after WhatsApp, which prides itself on being a completely encrypted messenger, refused to allow original senders of messages to be tracked.