New I-T rules focus on women, children safety: Centre to Delhi high court

The Union government also said that the IT Rules have provisions that intermediaries providing services in the nature of messaging shall cooperate with law enforcement agencies (LEA) to identify the first originator of information related to rape and child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
The Union government has told the Delhi high court that the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 focus on safety of women and children. (Shutterstock/Representative use)
The Union government has told the Delhi high court that the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 focus on safety of women and children. (Shutterstock/Representative use)
Updated on Nov 17, 2021 03:24 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union government has told the Delhi high court that the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 have a clear focus on enhancing the safety of women and children.

In an affidavit filed before a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh, the Centre said that the new rules aim to remove content such as “revenge porn” and other posts that breach physical privacy. The operation of these rules have in part been stayed by different high courts after they were challenged on the grounds of overreach and for being a threat to fundamental rights.

“That the rule protects the dignity of the person whose pictures on the computer resource negatively impact his/her dignity. The content removal within a 24 hours timeline does not result in over censorship and it has to be seen in light of the sensitivity, which is of utmost priority. Rule 3(2)(b) has been issued for the benefit and protection of victims whose sensitive pictures have been leaked online. It is a beneficial rule. Removal of a partially nude picture from its computer resource, on the basis of a complaint received from the victim of such picture, can in no way be said to affect the right of freedom of speech and expression of a user,” the Centre said in the document.

The Union government also said that the IT Rules have provisions that intermediaries providing services in the nature of messaging shall cooperate with law enforcement agencies (LEA) to identify the first originator of information related to rape and child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

“The significant social media intermediaries shall endeavour to deploy technology-based measures to identify any act or simulation of rape and children engaged in any sexually explicit act, in accordance with the safeguards in the Rules,” the government said.

The fresh affidavit has been filed in response to a petition filed by petitioner Uday Bedi, a practising lawyer, who challenged the impugning Rules 3 and 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which were brought into force from February 25, 2021, as a user of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram etc.

In response to the plea, the Centre said that the government is committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of India. It stated that the rules are meant to benefit a common user using any intermediary platforms, and provide a set of checks and balances for removal of unlawful content or information from social media platforms.

According to the affidavit, other significant reasons for enacting the IT Rules 2021 include significant expansion of the online intermediary ecosystem in the last 10 years, exponential growth of social media users, availability of unregulated content on communication devices, growth of online social media platforms, and their influencing capabilities.

Last month, the Centre defended the IT Rules saying that it was the legal obligation of social media intermediaries Facebook and WhatsApp to evolve a mechanism to identify the first originator of information without comprising end-to-end encryption or breaching the privacy of a user.

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Monday, January 24, 2022