The amendments to the IT Rules, 2021
Why in news?
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has notified amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021).
What are the IT Rules, 2021?
- In a bid to keep up with the issues of social media intermediaries(SMI) , India in 2021, replaced its decade old regulations on SMIs with the IT Rules, 2021 that were primarily aimed at placing obligations to ensure an open, safe and trusted internet
What was the need to amend the IT Rules, 2021?
The stated objectives of the amendments were threefold.
- First, there was a need to ensure that the interests and constitutional rights of internet user are not being contravened by big tech platforms,
- Second, to strengthen the grievance redressal framework in the Rules,
- Third, that compliance with these should not impact early stage Indian startups.
This translated into a set of proposed amendments that can be broadly classified into two categories.
- The first category involved placing additional obligations on the SMIs to ensure better protection of user interests while the second category involved the institution of an appellate mechanism for grievance redressal
What are the additional obligations placed on the Social Media Intermediaries ?
- SMIs has now been extended to ensuring that its users are in compliance with the relevant rules of the platform
- They are required to “make reasonable” efforts to prevent prohibited content being hosted on its platform by the users
- They are to respect all the rights accorded to the citizens under the Constitution, including in the articles 14, 19 and 21
- SMIs are now obligated to remove information or a communication link in relation to the six prohibited categories of content as and when a complaint arises. They have to remove such information
- They have been obligated to “take all reasonable measures to ensure accessibility of its services to users along with reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency
What are the newly-introduced Grievance Appellate Committees?
- The cornerstone of empowering users of social media platforms is to design a robust grievance redressal mechanism that can effectively and efficiently address their concerns
- The government has instituted Grievance Appellate Committees (GAC). The committee is styled as a three member council out of which one member will be a government officer (holding the post ex officio) while the other two members will be independent representatives.
- Users can file a complaint against the order of the grievance officer within 30 days. Importantly, the GAC is required to adopt an online dispute resolution mechanism which will make it more accessible to the users