Govt announces new social media guidelines to prevent its misuse.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has announced its draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, for social media platforms, OTT players & digital media on Thursday to prevent the misuse of social media that make it mandatory for platforms to give out the originator of certain messages containing unlawful information, while also requiring social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to remove such content within 36 hours of being notified and social media platforms will also be required to provide information, including related to verification of identity, to lawfully authorized agencies within 72 hours.
At a press conference, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Social media is welcome to do business in India, they have done exceedingly well, they have empowered ordinary Indians. The government welcomes criticism and right to dissent….It is important that social media users running into crores should be provided a platform for raising their grievance to raise complaints about misuse of social media.”
The rules, a draft of which were released in 2018, comes close on the heels of a tussle between the government and Twitter over removal of certain content related to the ongoing farmers’ protests. The government has also disagree with WhatsApp for over two years on the issue of tracing the originator of the messages.
According to the rules released on Thursday intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging would “enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource” as may be required by an court order or an order passed under Section 69 of the IT Act by the Competent Authority.
“such order shall not be passed in cases where less intrusive means are effective in identifying the originator,” it said, adding that the order would only be passed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.
Union Minister Mr Prasad said, “ in complying with an order for identification of the first originator, no significant social media intermediary shall be required to disclose the contents of any electronic message, any other information related to the first originator, or any information related to its other users”.
It is mandatory to reveal details of the first originator of a mischievous post by the social media intermediaries. “They have to tell us, who started the mischief,” he stated.
The intermediaries should remove or disable access to content “which is prima facie in the nature of non-consensual transmission of any material which exposes the private area of any person, shows such person in full or partial nudity or shows or depicts such person in any sexual act or conduct, or is in the nature of impersonation in an electronic form, including artificially morphed images, and such content is transmitted with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten or abuse an individual,” within 24 hours from the receipt of a complaint made by an individual or any person on their behalf.