Govt warns Twitter: Here’s why rules under the IT Act are being amended

ByHT Correspondent | Edited by Sameer
Feb 12, 2021 11:53 AM IST

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament that social media companies need to follow India’s laws or face strict action and that the government is working on new rules to make these companies more responsive to directions and accountable to Indian laws

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament on Thursday that social media companies need to follow India’s laws or face strict action and that the government is working on new rules to make companies such as Twitter and Facebook more responsive to directions and accountable to Indian laws. Here is what has prompted the warning and the proposed rules:

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (File photo)
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (File photo)

• Prasad’s comments follow days of tensions between the government and Twitter over taking down more than 1,300 accounts or posts in connection with the farmers’ protest and the violence on January 26.

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• The social media company only partially complied with the order, saying that the directions were not consistent with Indian law.

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• Prasad said when a company becomes a platform, you make the rules to assess what is wrong and what is right. He said that does not mean that the laws of India will not apply to them.

• The government told Rajya Sabha that the rules under the IT Act are in the process of being amended to make social media platforms more responsive and accountable to Indian laws.

• The rules will also make digital media platforms adhere to a Code of Ethics.

• As intermediaries, the companies are not liable to face action for posts made by users.

• The current guidelines state that if the government asks the intermediary to take down posts, then they have to oblige.

• The new guidelines are likely to strengthen the procedures so that companies cannot say they are an intermediary and escape responsibility.

• The intermediary guidelines, initially floated in 2018, are expected to introduce a slew of changes.

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• They are expected to allow the government to trace “unlawful content”, proactively identify and remove or disable public access to “unlawful information or content”.

• The guidelines are likely to make it mandatory for any intermediary with more than five million users in India to mandatorily be a company incorporated in India.

• Social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook function as media companies, essentially making money off ads, but do not take accountability for content.

• Experts have said that the nature of the laws will give the government broad powers and there is little transparency around online content takedowns, which leaves room for various interpretation.

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