Wikipedia, the world’s largest online encyclopedia, reached out to Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, expressing its concern that its model will be “severely disrupted” by the intermediary rules that India plans to introduce by mid-January 2020.
The Information Technology Ministry had asked internet giants like WhatsApp, Yahoo, Wikipedia and Facebook to take part in a public consultation for the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018, which are meant to replace the rules notified in 2011.
The government’s proposed amendments to rules under Section 79 of the IT Act aims to make it mandatory for online platforms to “proactively” deploy technology to enable access to content seen as “unlawful”.
Wikipedia, in its letter to the ministry, has said that the new changes would disrupt the volunteer model of real-time editing of information. “The automated filtering and quick takedown requirements would interfere with people’s ability to collaborate in real time on Wiki,” the Wikipedia Foundation said in a letter to the ministry.
According to Amanda Keton of the Wikipedia Foundation, the collaborative, open editing model has been crucial to Wikipedia’s growth and the intermediary guidelines would change the semblance of the entire website.
“The information that is included on Wikipedia is collected and curated by thousands of global volunteers who work together to make knowledge available for everyone. Wikipedia is structured by individual languages, not geographic markets,” said Keton’s letter.
The foundation also claims that the proposed guidelines would hinder its potential to provide free access to knowledge in India.
The letter also expressed concern over the “unrealistic burden” on nonprofits, and said that traceability requirements were a “serious threat to freedom of expression”.
Multi-platform messaging app, WhatsApp, also expressed its dismay in regards to the newly introduced rules. The Indian Express reported that the online application would require a complete re-design of the platform which would threaten its feature of signature encryption. A major concern for the company is the provision on supplying the government with the “originator of information”.
Keton in the letter to the minister also referred to the traffic figures Wikipedia gets from India.
According to the letter, in November alone readers from India have visited Wikipedia over 771 million times, which makes India the 5th highest number of views to Wikipedia from any country in the world. The letter also highlighted the fact that Wikipedia is available in 23 Indian languages.