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Draft amendments to IT Rules, 2021

  • IASbaba
  • June 9, 2022
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution
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In News: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has published a fresh draft of amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021

What are the proposed amendments to the IT Rules, 2021?

  • The draft proposes to create government-appointed appeal committees that will be empowered to review and possibly reverse content moderation decisions taken by social media companies.
  • It means in case a user is not satisfied with the content moderation decision taken by a company’s grievance officer, they can appeal that decision before the proposed government-appointed appeals committee.
  • Every order passed by the Grievance Appellate Committee shall be complied with by the concerned intermediary
  • Currently, the only recourse a user has against companies’ content decisions is to approach the courts
  • Responsibility on grievance officers appointed by social media companies – if a user complains about content which is “patently false”, infringes copyright, and threatens the integrity of India, among other things, a grievance officer will have to expeditiously address it within 72 hours.
  • Under current rules, grievance officers have 15 days to act on and dispose of users’ complaints.

What prompted the amendments?

  • The IT Rules, 2021 provide for a robust grievance redressal mechanism.
  • However, there have been many instances that grievance officers of intermediaries either do not address the grievances satisfactorily and/or fairly.
  • In such a scenario, the need for an appellate forum has been proposed to protect the rights and interests of users

Concerns

  • The proposal, without any legislative basis, seeks to subject content on social media to the direct scrutiny of the government by permitting users to appeal decisions of social media platforms to a Grievance Appellate Committee constituted by MeitY

IT Rules, 2021

  • These new rules deal with social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
  • These rules have been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000

New Guidelines for Social Media/Intermediaries:

Categories of Social Media Intermediaries:

  • Based on the number of users, on the social media platform intermediaries have been divided in two groups:
  • Social media intermediaries.
  • Significant social media intermediaries.

Features

  • In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbor provisions will not apply to them.
  • The safe harbor provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their platforms.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism is Mandatory:

  • Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers.
  • The grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.

Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users:

  • Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.

Additional Due Diligence for the Significant Social Media Intermediaries:

  • Appointments: Need to appoint Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer, all of whom should be resident in India.
  • Rules for News Publishers and OTT Platforms and Digital Media:

For OTT:

  • Self-Classification of Content:
  • The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Parental Lock:
  • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.
  • Display Rating:
  • Shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or program together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content

For Publishers of News on Digital Media:

They would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act 1995 thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.

  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism:
  • A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation.
  • Self-regulation by the Publisher:
  • Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it.
  • The officer shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.
  • Self-Regulatory Body:
  • There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers.
  • Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the SC, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members.
  • Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

Oversight Mechanism:

  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism.
  • It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.

Source: Indian Express

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