Suryakant Jena

The Government of India on Friday notified the revised Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022 months after first proposing changes to the IT Rules, 2021. The amended rules will come into effect immediately.

According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, a GAC (Grievance Appellate Committee) will hear complaints from users about content moderation decisions of social media platforms.

Each such appellate committee will consist of a chairperson and two whole-time members.

Experts view the move as the government's bid to reign in social media platforms and major tech giants like Twitter and Meta.

The Centre has listed several guidelines for necessary execution by social media intermediaries, one which primarily or solely enables interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services.

As highlighted in the amended rules, a social media intermediary shall publish on its website or mobile-based application, the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement in English or any language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution for access or usage of its computer resource by any person in the language of his choice and ensure compliance of the same.

The intermediary shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the user do not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that:-

  1. Belongs to another person and to which the user does not have any right
  2. Is obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another's privacy including bodily privacy, insulting or harassing on thc basis of gender, racially or ethnically objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence
  3. Is harmful to a child
  4. Infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights
  5. Deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation or information which is patently false and untrue or misleading in nature
  6. Impersonates another person
  7. Threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence, or prevents investigation of any offence, or is insulting other nation
  8. Contains software virus or any other computer code, file or program designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer resource 
  9. Violates any law for the time being in force

This apart intermediaries have been asked to ensure periodically, and at least once a year, inform their users of its rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement or any change in the rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement.

It shall take all reasonable measures to ensure accessibility of its services to users along with reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency

It shall respect all the rights accorded to the citizens under the Constitution, including in the articles 14, 19 and 21.

While dealing with any complaints by users, social media intermediaries have been directed to acknowledge the complaint within twcnty-four hours and resolve such complaint within a period of fifteen days from the date of its receipt.

On the request for the removal of information or communication link, intermediaries shall act as expeditiously as possible to resolve the grievance within seventy-two hours of such reporting.