The government notified the Information Technology (Intermediate Guidelines and Code of Digital Media Ethics) Rules, 2021 to prevent the operation and misuse of social media firms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google and OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar.
The rules make the distinction between social media intermediaries and social media with large users clear. The government will notify the limit on the number of users for the difference between the two.
Rules related to social media will be governed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and OTT and digital media will be monitored by the Ministry of Information and Administration.
Many of the draft provisions released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in December 2018 are the same as for social media, while the provision for self-regulation has been made for OTT.
Industry and experts have welcomed the move to regulate social media and large technology firms. However, the most controversial rule in this is to identify the person who created the wrong content.
Most social media firms mainly provide messaging services. In such a situation, they will have to reveal the identity of the first person to initiate the dissemination of material considered to be anti-national and against the security and sovereignty of the country. Social media firms will have to do so under Section 69 of the IT Act by an order issued by the competent authority or court.
The rule further states, “Social media firms must identify the first person to generate the message, as well as whether the computer resources concerned are outside India. In such a situation, the person sending the first message inside the country will be considered as the person who created the message. ‘
Industry elders said, “Looking at the rules, it seems that the government has decided to reach out to the first messenger only in India.” Under the IT Act, you can also arrest a person outside the country.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government wants social media firms to identify only the first person to introduce information that undermines India’s sovereignty, security or public order. However, the company will not be required to disclose the contents of any message.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has previously stated that messages sent on its platform are end-to-end encryption and private in nature. In such a situation, it would be feared for its misuse. Apart from this, the arbitrators will also have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who will ensure compliance with the Act and the laws.
Social media companies will also have to appoint a contact person who will be responsible for coordinating with law enforcement agencies. Apart from these, a local officer will also have to be appointed to hear the complaints. These three officers will be Indians.
The appointment of a contact person (person) and a local officer to listen to the complaints — will also complete the task. All these actions will make it difficult for companies like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram to operate in India. It will also not be in the interest of the user and this will leave them limited options to use. WhatsApp and Signal messaging app will also have to generate a compliance report every month. This report will mention the grievances and the steps taken for their redressal. Actively removed content will also have to be mentioned in this report to social media companies. Social media companies must remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal notice from the government.
On these government regulations, a Facebook spokesperson said, “As a company, we have welcomed the guidelines and rules to deal with the challenges that currently arise on the Internet. Facebook will help people to express their views on their platform in an independent and secure manner. New rules matter a lot and we will study them carefully. We appreciate the Minister’s comment on the contribution of social media in the country. We will continue to play our role in advancing the digital revolution in India. ‘