Govt introduces revised bill to regulate social media platforms

Published On: January 6, 2024 05:00 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Proposes fine of up to Rs 2,500,000 for misuse

KATHMANDU, Jan 6: The government has proposed a new law to regulate social media platforms. The bill has been drafted encompassing certain provisions and new provisions from the earlier draft prepared during the tenure of former Communications Minister Gokul Baskota. The draft bill has been made public by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) for public feedback.

As per the draft Bill, a fine ranging from Rs 500,000 to Rs 2,500,000 has been proposed for the misuse of social media. The legislation also includes provisions for regulating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and provides definitions for hate speech, cyberbullying, among other offenses.

The proposed administrative structure for social media regulation is complex, and its leadership is designated to be political. The Social Media Regulatory Council, outlined in the Bill, comprises the MoCIT, the Secretary of the MoCIT, and the Director General of the relevant department. This council, operating under political leadership, will hold the authority to issue instructions for the removal of content published on social media platforms.

The Social Media Management Center, operating under the direct guidance of the Central Council, will have the right to instruct the removal of content published on social media platforms. The proposed Central Council is set to be headed by the MoCIT.

The bill has also introduced the provision of social media registration. Earlier in 2076 BS, the then Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota had also proposed the registration. The previous proposal faced opposition on the grounds that it would affect freedom of expression. However, the same arrangement has been introduced even now.

According to the proposed legislation, companies, individuals, and organizations intending to operate social networks can apply to the management center and proceed with registration upon completing the necessary processes. The bill also outlines provisions for both renewal and cancellation of registration.

A provision has also been proposed to prohibit unregistered and canceled social networks from operating throughout Nepal. However, the proposed bill is silent on provisions such as what to do if the currently operating social networks are not registered or when they should be registered.

Setting limits and conditions for social media users, the bill defines offenses such as cyberbullying, online bullying, creation of fake IDs, phishing, scams, and operating social media without registration. The legislation categorizes influencing elections, insulting, defaming, and other actions as criminal offenses.

The bill proposes a fine of Rs 2,500,000 for operating a social network without registration and fines up to Rs 500,000 for other offenses. Additionally, the legislation includes provisions for taking action under other laws, recommending further investigations in cases involving personal privacy, and payment of compensation.

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