Aim to comply, discussing issues: Facebook on new social media guidelines

The rules allow users to dispute action taken against them by social media intermediaries such as Facebook and Twitter and setting up a three-tier self-regulatory framework for so-called over the top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime and online news media entities
Representational Image. (File photo)
Representational Image. (File photo)
Published on May 25, 2021 02:08 PM IST
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ByDeeksha Bhardwaj

Facebook on Tuesday said it is working to comply with the rules notified in February to govern the online content and was discussing the provisions that “need more engagement” with the government even as the deadline for compliance is due to end on Tuesday. The company underlined it remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on the platform

The rules allow users to dispute action taken against them by social media intermediaries such as Facebook and Twitter and setting up a three-tier self-regulatory framework for so-called over the top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime and online news media entities.

“We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT [Information Technology] 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,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

The statement came a day after electronics and information technology ministry officials warned of stern action in case of non-compliance with the new guidelines such as appointments of chief compliance and grievance officers by social media intermediaries.

An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said so far none of the prominent significant social media intermediaries have sent the government any intimation of such appointments. “It is not necessary they inform the ministry. They can even furnish the details on the website. Either way, they have to comply,” the official said. “The rules were notified on February 25 and social media intermediaries have been given three months to comply.”

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The policy also includes bringing digital news publishers under the ambit of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology (IT) Act. The provision empowers the government to order the blocking of access to content that is considered a threat to public order. An officer, who will head an inter-ministerial committee at the apex of the self-regulatory system, can also issue this order under emergency circumstances where the companies will not be given a chance for explanation. The committee will have to meet within 48 hours to ratify the emergency block.

The rules mandate increased due diligence by social media companies and data sharing, such as information about the first originator, with enforcement agencies. They define significant social media intermediaries as platforms that have five million users or above.

Under part four of the guidelines, the intermediaries are required to appoint compliance officers, “responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and rules” and be “liable in any proceedings relating to any relevant third-party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by that intermediary where he fails to ensure that such intermediary observes due diligence while discharging its duties under the Act”.

Intermediaries are also required to appoint nodal contact persons for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and resident grievance officers.

A second official said as soon as the rules were notified, they became a legal framework. “According to part seven of the new guidelines, if the intermediary does not follow the rules, it is liable for punishment under Indian law, as section 79 of the [IT] Act will no longer apply.” Section 79 provided the intermediaries “safe habour” which is the exemption from punishment for third-party content posted on their websites.

“Where an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code,” says the part seven.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021