Centre for Internet & Society

Finding Needles in Haystacks - Discussing the Role of Automated Filtering in the New Indian Intermediary Liability Rules 

Posted by Shweta Mohandas and Torsha Sarkar at Aug 03, 2021 12:00 AM |

On the 25th of February this year The Government of India notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The new Rules broaden the scope of which entities can be considered as intermediaries to now include curated-content platforms (Netflix) as well as digital news publications. This blogpost analyzes the rule on automated filtering, in the context of the growing use of automated content moderation.

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Media Market Risk Ratings: India

Media Market Risk Ratings: India

Posted by Torsha Sarkar, Pranav M Bidare, and Gurshabad Grover at Jul 12, 2021 05:00 PM |

The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) are launching a study into the risk of disinformation on digital news platforms in India, creating an index that is intended to serve donors and brands with a neutral assessment of news sites that they can utilise to defund disinformation.

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The Ministry And The Trace: Subverting End-To-End Encryption

Posted by Gurshabad Grover, Tanaya Rajwade and Divyank Katira at Jul 12, 2021 12:00 AM |

A legal and technical analysis of the 'traceability' rule and its impact on messaging privacy.

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State of Consumer Digital Security in India

Posted by Pranav M B at Jul 05, 2021 12:00 AM |

This report attempts to identify the existing state of digital safety in India, with a mapping of digital threats, which will aid stakeholders in identifying and addressing digital security problems in the country. This project was funded by the Asia Foundation.

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At the Heart of Crypto Investing, There is Tether. But Will its Promise Pan Out?

At the Heart of Crypto Investing, There is Tether. But Will its Promise Pan Out?

Posted by Aman Nair at Jul 01, 2021 02:46 PM |

The $18.5 million fine levied by the New York attorney general’s office earlier this year to settle a legal dispute, raises more questions than answers.

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On the legality and constitutionality of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

Posted by Torsha Sarkar, Gurshabad Grover, Raghav Ahooja, Pallavi Bedi and Divyank Katira at Jun 21, 2021 12:00 AM |

This note examines the legality and constitutionality of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The analysis is consistent with previous work carried out by CIS on issues of intermediary liability and freedom of expression.

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Beyond Public Squares, Dumb Conduits, and Gatekeepers: The Need for a New Legal Metaphor for Social Media

Beyond Public Squares, Dumb Conduits, and Gatekeepers: The Need for a New Legal Metaphor for Social Media

Posted by Amber Sinha at May 31, 2021 10:23 AM |

In the past few years, social networking sites have come to play a central role in intermediating the public’s access to and deliberation of information critical to a thriving democracy. In stark contrast to early utopian visions which imagined that the internet would create a more informed public, facilitate citizen-led engagement, and democratize media, what we see now is the growing association of social media platforms with political polarization and the entrenchment of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

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Regulating Sexist Online Harassment as a Form of Censorship

Regulating Sexist Online Harassment as a Form of Censorship

Posted by Amber Sinha at May 31, 2021 09:56 AM |

This paper is part of a series under IT for Change’s project, Recognize, Resist, Remedy: Combating Sexist Hate Speech Online. The series, titled Rethinking Legal-Institutional Approaches to Sexist Hate Speech in India, aims to create a space for civil society actors to proactively engage in the remaking of online governance, bringing together inputs from legal scholars, practitioners, and activists. The papers reflect upon the issue of online sexism and misogyny, proposing recommendations for appropriate legal-institutional responses. The series is funded by EdelGive Foundation, India and International Development Research Centre, Canada.

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Comments and recommendations to the Guidelines for “Influencer Advertising on Digital Media”

Posted by Torsha Sarkar and Shweta Mohandas at Apr 05, 2021 12:00 AM |

In February, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had issued draft rules for regulation of digital influencers, with an aim to "understand the peculiarities of [online] advertisements and the way consumers view them", as well as to ensure that: "consumers must be able to distinguish when something is being promoted with an intention to influence their opinion or behaviour for an immediate or eventual commercial gain". In lieu of this, we presented our responses.

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New intermediary guidelines: The good and the bad

In pursuance of the government releasing the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, this blogpost offers a quick rundown of some of the changes brought about the Rules, and how they line up with existing principles of best practices in content moderation, among others.

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Pandemic Technology takes its Toll on Data Privacy

Posted by Aman Nair and Pallavi Bedi at Dec 31, 2020 12:00 AM |

The absence of any legal framework has meant these tools are now being used for purposes beyond managing the pandemic.

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The PDP Bill 2019 Through the Lens of Privacy by Design

Posted by Saumyaa Naidu, Akash Sheshadri, Shweta Mohandas, and Pranav M Bidare; Edited by Arindrajit Basu, Shweta Reddy; With inputs from Amber Sinha at Nov 12, 2020 10:55 AM |

This paper evaluates the PDP Bill based on the Privacy by Design approach. It examines the implications of Bill in terms of the data ecosystem it may lead to, and the visual interface design in digital platforms. This paper focuses on the notice and consent communication suggested by the Bill, and the role and accountability of design in its interpretation.

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The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Demanding your Data

Posted by Rekha Jain at Nov 10, 2020 05:44 PM |

The increasing digitalization of the economy and ubiquity of the Internet, coupled with developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has given rise to transformational business models across several sectors.

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Reclaiming AI Futures: Call for Contributions and Provocations

Posted by Divij Joshi at Nov 09, 2020 11:05 AM |

CIS is pleased to share this call for contributions by Mozilla Fellow Divij Joshi. CIS will be working with Divij to edit, collate, and finalise this publication. This publication will add to Divij’s work as part of the AI observatory. The work is entirely funded by Divij Joshi.

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Comments to National Digital Health Mission: Health Data Management Policy

Posted by Shweta Mohandas, Pallavi Bedi, Shweta Reddy, and Saumyaa Naidu at Oct 05, 2020 03:56 PM |

CIS has submitted comments to the National Health Data Management Policy. We welcome the opportunity provided to our comments on the Policy and we hope that the final Policy will consider the interests of all the stakeholders to ensure that it protects the privacy of the individual while encouraging a digital health ecosystem.

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Mapping Web Censorship & Net Neutrality Violations


For over a year, researchers at the Centre for Internet and Society have been studying website blocking by internet service providers (ISPs) in India. We have learned that major ISPs don’t always block the same websites, and also use different blocking techniques. To take this study further, and map net neutrality violations by ISPs, we need your help. We have developed CensorWatch, a research tool to collect empirical evidence about what websites are blocked by Indian ISPs, and which blocking methods are being used to do so. Read more about this project (link), download CensorWatch (link), and help determine if ISPs are complying with India’s net neutrality regulations.




Learn more about website blocking in India, through our recent work on the issue —
  1. Using information from court orders, user reports, and government orders, and running network tests from six ISPs, Kushagra Singh, Gurshabad Grover and Varun Bansal presented the largest study of web blocking in India. Through their work, they demonstrated that major ISPs in India use different techniques to block websites, and that they don’t block the same websites (link).
  2. Gurshabad Grover and Kushagra Singh collaborated with Simone Basso of the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) to study HTTPS traffic blocking in India by running experiments on the networks of three popular Indian ISPs: ACT Fibernet, Bharti Airtel, and Reliance Jio (link).
  3. For The Leaflet, Torsha Sarkar and Gurshabad Grover wrote about the legal framework of blocking in India — Section 69A of the IT Act and its rules. They considered commentator opinions questioning the constitutionality of the regime, whether originators of content are entitled to a hearing, and whether Rule 16, which mandates confidentiality of content takedown requests received by intermediaries from the Government, continues to be operative (link).
  4. In the Hindustan Times, Gurshabad Grover critically analysed the confidentiality requirement embedded within Section 69A of the IT Act and argued how this leads to internet users in India experiencing arbitrary censorship (link).
  5. Torsha Sarkar, along with Sarvjeet Singh of the Centre for Communication Governance (CCG), spoke to Medianama delineating the procedural aspects of section 69A of the IT Act (link).
  6. Arindrajit Basu spoke to the Times of India about the geopolitical and regulatory implications of the Indian government’s move to ban fifty-nine Chinese applications from India (link).

Fundamental Right to Privacy — Three Years of the Puttaswamy Judgment

Posted by Pranav M B at Aug 24, 2020 07:40 AM |


Today marks three years since the Supreme Court of India recognised the fundamental right to privacy, but the ideals laid down in the Puttaswamy Judgment are far from being completely realized. Through our research, we invite you to better understand the judgment and its implications, and take stock of recent issues pertaining to privacy.  

  1. Amber Sinha dissects the Puttaswamy Judgment through an analysis of the sources, scope and structure of the right, and its possible limitations. [link]

  1. Through a visual guide to the fundamental right to privacy, Amber Sinha and Pooja Saxena trace how courts in India have viewed the right to privacy since Independence, explain how key legal questions were resolved in the Puttaswamy Judgement, and provide an account of the four dimensions of privacy — space, body, information and choice — recognized by the Supreme Court. [link]

  1. Based on publicly available submissions, press statements, and other media reports, Arindrajit Basu and Amber Sinha track the political evolution of the data protection ecosystem in India, on EPW Engage. They discuss how this has, and will continue to impact legislative and policy developments. [link

  1. For the AI Policy Exchange, Arindrajit Basu and Siddharth Sonkar examine the  Automated Facial Recognition Systems (AFRS), and define the key legal and policy questions related to privacy concerns around the adoption of AFRS by governments around the world. [link]

  1. Over the past decade, reproductive health programmes in India have been digitising extensive data about pregnant women. In partnership with Privacy International, we studied the Mother and Child Tracking system (MCTS), and Ambika Tandon presents the impact on the privacy of mothers and children in the country. [link

  1. While the right to privacy can be used to protect oneself from state surveillance, Mira Swaminathan and Shubhika Saluja write about the equally crucial problem of lateral surveillance — surveillance that happens between individuals, and within neighbourhoods, and communities — with a focus on this issue during the COVID-19 crisis. [link]

  1. Finally, take a dive into the archives of the Centre for Internet and Society to read our work, which was cited in the Puttaswamy judgment — essays by Ashna Ashesh, Vidushi Marda and Bhairav Acharya that displaced the notion that privacy is inherently a Western concept, by attempting to locate the constructs of privacy in Classical Hindu [link], and Islamic Laws [link]; and Acharya’s article in the Economic and Political Weekly, which highlighted the need for privacy jurisprudence to reflect theoretical clarity, and be sensitive to unique Indian contexts [link]. 


Comments on NITI AAYOG Working Document: Towards Responsible #AIforAll

Posted by Shweta Mohandas, Arindrajit Basu and Ambika Tandon at Aug 14, 2020 01:20 PM |

The NITI Aayog Working Document on Responsible AI for All released on 21st July 2020 serves as a significant statement of intent from NITI Aayog, acknowledging the need to ensure that any conception of “Responsible AI” must fulfill constitutional responsibilities, incorporated through workable principles. However, as it is a draft document for discussion, it is important to highlight next steps for research and policy levers to build upon this report.

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Investigating TLS blocking in India

Posted by Simone Basso, Gurshabad Grover and Kushagra Singh at Jul 09, 2020 01:25 AM |

A study into Transport Layer Security (TLS)-based blocking by three popular Indian ISPs: ACT Fibernet, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.

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Towards Algorithmic Transparency

Posted by Radhika Radhakrishnan, and Amber Sinha at Jul 06, 2020 09:55 AM |

This policy brief examines the issue of transparency as a key ethical component in the development, deployment, and use of Artificial Intelligence.

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