Last year, the government proposed to make amendments to the country’s Information Technology (IT) Act. They were seeking to censor content that could be perceived as a threat to the public.
As per the draft, India’s technology ministry would require giant online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp to remove content deemed ‘unlawful’ within 24 hours. This also includes banning the promotion of vaping and ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems).
The public has been widely critical of this draft, which seems like an attempt to over-regulate internet speech. It has also been considered as a move to ‘moral police’ content over the internet.
So, the vaping community took the matters in their own hands. Soon after, the Association of Vapers India (AVI), a movement that promotes the reduction of tobacco consumption, made a submission to the IT ministry opposing the amendment which seeks to ban ENDS information online.
AVI argues that the implication that ENDS is as harmful as alcohol or cigarettes is ‘a serious case of misinformation.’ As per AVI, the new draft denies the public the right to ‘access live-saving information.’
This is our submission to the IT ministry opposing the amendment which seeks to ban ENDS info online. We have contested the new rules on grounds they will be extremely detrimental to public health by preventing people from accessing life-saving information. #RegulateDontBan pic.twitter.com/OwbSR2QyEv
— AVI (@vapeindia) February 1, 2019
And, it seems like the Ministry Of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) seems to be backing away from their previous stance.
Recently, Rakesh Maheshwari, scientist and group coordinator of cyberlaw at MeitY told Quartz. , “We do not, in fact, understand vaping and ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems). All those things actually became known to us after the comments which we started receiving from people.”