The IT rules 2021 were amended in a major push towards an Open, Safe & Trusted, and Accountable Internet. The Ministry of Electronics and IT notified these amendments aimed at protecting the rights of Digital Nagriks. Read here to know more about the need for the amendments.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022 are aimed at enhancing due diligence requirements and ensuring accountability of social media and other intermediaries.
They have been notified against the backdrop of complaints regarding the action/inaction on the part of the intermediaries on user grievances regarding objectionable content or suspension of their accounts.
The draft amendment to IT rules, 2021 was released earlier this year.
Key provisions of IT Rules 2021
IT Rules 2021 were released under section 87 of the IT Act, 2000 for Social-Media, Digital Media, and OTT platforms.
- Social media intermediaries, with registered users in India above a notified threshold, have been classified as significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs).
- The Rules prescribe a framework for the regulation of content by online publishers of news and current affairs content and curated audio-visual content.
- All intermediaries are required to provide a grievance redressal mechanism for resolving complaints from users or victims.
- The privacy policies of social media platforms must make sure that users are informed about not disseminating copyrighted material and anything that could be seen as threatening the unity, integrity, defence, security, or sovereignty of India or friendly relations with other states, or breaking any current law.
- They are required to establish a grievance redressal mechanism and remove unlawful and unfitting content within stipulated time frames.
- Within 24 hours after receiving complaints, intermediaries are required to remove or limit access to any content that exposes people’s private regions, depicts them in full or partial nudity, performs sexual acts, or is otherwise impersonated, including through the use of morphing photos, etc.
Amendment to IT rules 2021
The intermediaries now will be expected to ensure that there is no uploading of content that intentionally communicates any misinformation or information that is patently false or untrue hence entrusting an important responsibility to intermediaries.
The rules also have made it explicit for the intermediary to respect the rights accorded to the citizens of India under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution
Key provisions of the amendment are:
Grievance Appellate Committees (GAC): The Central Government shall establish one or more Grievance Appellate Committees (GAC) within three months.
- Each GAC will consist of a chairperson and two whole-time members appointed by the Central government.
- Of these, one member shall be ex-officio, while the other two shall be independent members
- The GAC will hear appeals by social media users against the decisions of grievance officers appointed by the intermediary.
- The idea behind setting up the committees is to give users of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, recourse other than approaching the courts to settle complaints.
- However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.
Dispute Resolution Mechanism: Online dispute resolution mechanism, i.e., digital mode of the entire appeal process, from the filing of an appeal to the decision.
Obligations for intermediaries: Intermediaries can develop and implement “appropriate safeguards” to prevent misuse of the grievance redressal mechanism.
Time-bound: The companies will be required to acknowledge complaints from users within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days or 72 hours in case of an information takedown request.
Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content.
- These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content.
- The new provision will ensure that the intermediary’s obligation is not a mere formality.
For effective communication of the rules and regulations of the intermediary, the communication must be done in regional Indian languages as well.
Some of the content categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been rephrased to deal particularly with misinformation, and content that could incite violence between different religious/caste groups.
The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy, and transparency.
While the IT Rules of 2021 mandated that social media intermediaries would be responsible for informing users not “to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information” not permitted under the law, the amended rules only say that intermediaries should take “all reasonable measures” to inform users of these rules.
News about IT Rules
- The government notified amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
- These are aimed at making internet-open, safe, trusted, and accountable, for the digital nagriks of the country.
Concerns with IT rules
Excessive government control:
- The Rules may be going beyond the powers delegated under the Act in certain cases.
- Such as where they provide for the regulation of significant social media intermediaries and online publishers and require certain intermediaries to identify the first originator of the information.
- Can act as an effective tool to curb government criticism and dissent.
- Grounds for restricting online content are overbroad and may affect freedom of speech.
Absence of procedural safeguards:
- There are no procedural safeguards for requests by law enforcement agencies for information under the possession of intermediaries.
- Requiring messaging services to enable the identification of the first originator of information on its platform may adversely affect the privacy of individuals.
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-Article written by Swathi Satish