The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology mentioned on Monday that it is taking the next step in its plan to revise existing laws to regulate social media apps whose primary source of content is their users.

In a legal document filed with the Supreme Court of India, the Ministry stated that it’d formulate the rules by January next year. The reason for this, according to the government department, is that these apps – or ‘intermediaries’ – can potentially cause “unimaginable disruption” to democracy. As a result, overseeing them would help address the threats to the nation’s security as well as individual rights.

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Regulation of social media apps can help prevent disruption to democracy, according to the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology

The government already released a draft of guidelines for consultation in late 2018. The proposed rules – which revised the laws from 2011 – categorized any service including but not limited to social media as intermediaries if they have 5 million users or more. At the time, officials said that the rules needed to be modernized in order to prevent the spreading of false information and other misuses of the Internet.

The filing on Monday is a response to an ongoing case filed by Facebook in the country to stop the authority from forcing WhatsApp to come up with a system that would make revealing the source of messages exchanged via this popular messaging app possible.

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The Indian government wants WhatApp to have a system with which it can trace the source of messages exchanged via the app

Some have proposed that social media sites should have Indian users connect their accounts with Aadhaar — an identity number issued by the government. However, Facebook executives argue that doing so would compromise the privacy of WhatApp users.

The number of Internet users in India has witnessed a major spike in the past few years, sitting at approximately over 600 million currently. This is thanks a large part to the increasing availability of affordable Android phones and cheap mobile data.

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The number of Internet users in India has witnessed a major spike in recent years

According to what a lower court previously stated, this has contributed to societal development and economic growth, but it has also given rise to fake news, hate speech, anti-national activities, and other illegal activities.