Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Rajeev Chandrasekhar IANS (File photo)

Govt. notifies amendments to IT Intermediary Rules, enhances accountability of social media

New Delhi, October 29, 2022

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has notified amendments to the IT Intermediary Rules 2021 that enhance due diligence requirements and ensures accountability of social media and other intermediaries.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar told media persons that the amendments, notified on Friday, were a major push towards an "open, safe, trusted and accountable Internet" and were aimed at protecting the rights of digital citizens.

"Protection of constitutional rights of Indian citizens is a must. India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a trustee of rights of its citizens and Digital Nagriks,"he said.

The amendments 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, he said.

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 on intermediaries.

The rules also have made it explicit for the intermediary to respect the rights accorded to the citizens of India under the Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Elaborating on the new sets of rules, Chandrasekhar said the amendments were notified after the Ministry followed an exhaustive public consultation process involving all stakeholders.

Stating that the Government's vision and intent was to work along with intermediaries for achieving the common goal of keeping the internet safe, trusted and accountable, the Minister affirmed that “these rules marks a new partnership between the Government and the intermediaries.

The amended rules can be seen here.

The following are the key changes effected in the rules:

(a) Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. The 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.

(b) For effective communication of the rules and regulations of the intermediary, it is important that the communication is done in regional Indian languages as well.

(c) The grounds in rule 3(1)(b)(ii) have been rationalized by removing the words "defamatory" and "libellous". Whether any content is defamatory or libellous will be determined through judicial review.

(d) 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.

(e) The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.

(f) Grievance Appellate Committee(s) will be established to allow users to appeal against the inaction of, or decisions taken by intermediaries on user complaints. However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.

NNN

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