New rules to prevent abuse and misuse of social media: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Updated on May 27, 2021 12:44 PM IST

The comments came 2 days after WhatsApp cited “dangerous invasion of privacy” and threats to free speech of its 400 mn users in India and moved the Delhi HC against the rule that mandates social media firms to identify the first originator of a message

Union electronics and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (File photo)
Union electronics and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (File photo)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj

Union electronics and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday maintained the government “fully recognises and respects the right of privacy” and said the new rules for intermediaries were designed to empower citizens and prevent the “abuse and misuse” of social media.

“The new Rules require the social media companies to set up an India-based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer and nodal officer so that millions of users of social media who have a grievance get a forum for its redressal,” Prasad posted on Koo, the Indian alternative to Twitter.

The comments came two days after WhatsApp cited “dangerous invasion of privacy” and threats to free speech of its 400 million users in India and moved the Delhi high court against the rule that mandates social media intermediaries to identify the first originator of a message on the orders of a court or executive authority.

Prasad said ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new rules. “Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the Rules,” he said.

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He clarified the “obligation to reveal” the first originator of an offensive message already in circulation “relates only to offences relating to sovereignty, integrity & security of India, public order, rape, child sexual abuse”. “That too when other less intrusive measures are not effective,” he said.

The government on Wednesday wrote to social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to send details of their compliance officers, nodal contact persons, resident grievance officers and physical contact addresses in India. It asked them to confirm if they have complied with the new Information Technology Act guidelines after the deadline to do so ended on Tuesday.

The controversial guidelines seek the companies to put in place a new mechanism to regulate content, appoint officers, who will be liable for compliance, and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.

Most of the prominent companies, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Google, are yet to comply with the new rules.

WhatsApp has a resident grievance officer. It is yet to appoint a compliance officer. Twitter and Facebook have not appointed anyone yet.

Facebook on Tuesday said it aims to comply with the new guidelines but indicated there were unresolved issues.

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