Centre to consider nodal officers to regulate social media content
The ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) is considering designating nodal officers for issuing directions for the takedown of “unlawful” content as prescribed by the new social media and intermediary guidelines, officials familiar with the matter said.
“One of the proposals under consideration is having a nodal officer who will be the authority to issue directions for takedown of content,” an official said on the condition of anonymity. “The standard operating procedures will help clarify the confusion around who issues the direction from a particular ministry.”
The government has been working on the standard operating procedure (SOP), which it is supposed to outline as part of the new social media guidelines which came into effect in February. The procedures are being vetted by a committee of officials from Meity, and ministries including information and broadcasting and law and justice. The procedure has been a key demand made by the platforms as they seek clarity on who can issue takedown orders for content hosted on their sites.
The official added that even as the government works on the SOP, the rules for removal of unlawful content are clear.
“An intermediary, on whose computer resource the information is stored, hosted or published, upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court of competent jurisdiction or on being notified by the Appropriate Government or its agency under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 79 of the Act, shall not host, store or publish any unlawful information, which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India; security of the State; friendly relations with foreign States; public order; decency or morality; in relation to contempt of court; defamation; incitement to an offence relating to the above, or any information which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force,” states the relevant section in the new social media and intermediary guidelines, which came into effect on February 25.
A second official said that the procedures will help clarify, especially in central ministries, who can ultimately issue orders for content removal. “Take for instance the ministry of women and child development, the procedures will help outline who is the designated authority, whether it is NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) or WCD (Women and Child Development) or some other department under the ministry that ask a social media platform to take action against content,” this person added on condition of anonymity.
The first official said that since the expertise of what constitutes unlawful content lies with the particular ministry, the proposal to have a designated official was being considered.
So far, content removal on platforms is done by a designated officer appointed by the central government, who can issue orders for blocking content under section 69(A) of the information technology Act. A bifurcation in the new guidelines has also created a parallel mechanism to enable the ministry of information and broadcasting to issue orders under the same section.