Share info on compliance with new rules: Govt tells social media firms
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked all social media intermediaries to share information regarding compliance with the new guidelines by furnishing details of their compliance officer, nodal contact person, resident grievance officer and physical contact address in India.
“Government through a separate notification has also prescribed that a social media intermediary having fifty lakh (5 million) registered users in India will be considered a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI),” the government said in its communication to the companies. “Additional set of due diligence for SSMI are being administered by this ministry. The additional due diligence required from SSMI have come into effect today, at the conclusion of three additional months given to SSMIs.”
The government asked the social media intermediaries to preferably share the details by the end of Wednesday.
Most of the prominent companies, including social media giants Facebook and Twitter, instant messaging application WhatsApp and tech giant Google are yet to comply with the new rules, the deadline for which lapsed on May 25.
WhatsApp has a resident grievance officer, but it is yet to appoint a compliance officer. Twitter and Facebook too have not appointed anyone yet. Facebook on Tuesday said it aims to comply with the new guidelines but indicated there were unresolved issues. Google has advertised for the post of a compliance officer and in a statement said that it “respects India’s legislative process”. “We respect India’s legislative process and have a long history of responding to government requests to remove content where the content violates the local law or our product policies. We realize that our work in keeping our platforms secure is never done and we will continue to refine our existing approaches, and evolve our policies and be as transparent as possible about how we make decisions,” a Google spokesperson said.
The government has further asked social media intermediaries to specify why they may not be considered a significant one by providing the number of registered users on the platform. “The Government reserves the right to seek any additional information, as may be permitted within these Rules and the IT Act.”
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.
Koo, the Indian social media app, has announced it has complied with the new requirements and appointed a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer, and nodal contact officer.
HT on Monday reported that officials warned of stern action if the companies did not adhere to the deadline. They added none of the companies have informed the government of the compliance or shared details of the officers they were meant to have appointed on their websites.
The new 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 three-tier 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. News media publishers and over the top (or streaming) such as Netflix and Hotstar, will fall under the ambit of the ministry of information and broadcasting.