A parliamentary panel on Thursday recommended seeking greater accountability from social media platforms by treating them as publishers, and including both personal and non-personal data in the ambit of the proposed law on data protection, PTI reported.

The Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 tabled its report in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. The committee was headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP PP Chaudhary.

“The committee, considering the immediate need to regulate social media intermediaries, have expressed a strong view that these designated intermediaries may be working as publishers of the content in many situations, owing to the fact that they have the ability to select the receiver of the content and also exercise control over the access to any such content hosted by them,” the report said.

No social media platform should be permitted to operate in the country unless the parent company sets up an office in India, the panel recommended, according to Deccan Herald. It called for a mechanism by which social media platforms that do not act as intermediaries will be made responsible for content from unverified accounts on the platforms.

“Once application for verification is submitted with necessary documents, the social media intermediaries must mandatorily verify the account,” the report added.

The committee also recommended setting up of a statutory media regulatory authority to regulate the content on all media platforms, whether they are print, online or otherwise. The panel said that this authority may be formed on the lines of the Press Council of India, PTI reported.

Further, the panel said that a framework should be created to regulate manufacturers of hardware, who also collect data along with the software.

The committee added that the proposed law should not be called the Personal Data Protection Bill, and suggested that it should not be restricted to the protection of personal data.

Data protection bill

The draft data protection bill proposes to put restrictions on the use of personal information of people without their explicit consent. The items covered by the draft bill include consent, personal data, exemptions that can be granted, storage restrictions for personal data and individual rights.

The Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was tasked with examining the draft law. It comprised 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha.

The committee held meetings with civil society members, industry representatives and other stakeholders in the process of reviewing the Bill.

Several MPs had expressed their dissent to the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill after the panel adopted its draft report in November.

These included Congress MPs Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Gaurav Gogoi, Trinamool Congress legislators Derek O’Brien and Mahua Moitra and Biju Janata Dal’s Amar Patnaik.