The social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are yet to comply with the government rules even with the deadline ending on 25th May. The centre had announced a set of rules on 25th February to be followed by these giants. Even with a three month period provided by the government to comply with the said guidelines, most of the multinational social media platforms are yet to comply with the rules.
What are the new Guidelines by the Ministry of Electronics and IT?
On 25th February 2021 the Ministry of Electronics and IT framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. These new rules are to come into effect on 26th May.
The Government acknowledges and respects the right of every Indian to criticize and disagree as an essential element of democracy. India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India.
The new government guidelines require a grievance redressal mechanism. According to the press release by the ministry the Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims. Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.
With respect to Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Specially Women Users the social media Intermediaries are required to 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. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.
The guidelines also require appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules. Such a person should be a resident in India and a Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident in India. A Resident Grievance Officer also has to be appointed who shall perform the functions mentioned under Grievance Redressal Mechanism who shall be a resident in India. Lastly, a monthly compliance report also has to be published mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary
The government also requires OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon prime to 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.
If rules aren’t compiled by Facebook & other social media platforms yet, will they be banned from 26th May?
As of now the government says if these social media platforms as Facebook don’t comply with rules, Legal action can be taken against them as per Indian Laws. This means that the social media platforms will still exist but will lose their intermediary status and will be liable for criminal action.
Facebook spokesperson has made a statement that “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies”. On the other hand, most other social media platforms claim that they are waiting for communication from their headquarters in the US. Koo, a social media platform with more than 5 million user base remains the only social media platform currently that has complied with all the government rules.