Social media firms seek clarity on IT rules; self-explanatory, says govt
- The new IT Rules were notified on February 25, and came into effect on May 25
Even as social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook await clarity about a standard operating procedure for the new social media and intermediary guidelines, a ministry of electronics and information technology official on Monday said that the rules are self-explanatory.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 were notified by the Centre on February 25, and came into effect on May 25. “It is very clear that the agency administering a particular law will be the appropriate government authority, whether it is under the state government or the Centre,” the IT ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The official added that even as the government works on the SOP, the rules for the 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...,” said the relevant section in the guidelines. At least five industry bodies wrote to the ministry in May, seeking an SOP for better implementation
HT reached out to Facebook and Twitter for a response but did not receive any till the time of going to press. Industry officials, however, claim that there is a lack of clarity on definition of “appropriate government (authority)”.
Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, an NGO, said the power to demand removal of unlawful content posted on intermediaries is abused by police departments and there have been instances when it was used to block content even before an FIR was filed. “The government justification is correct to a reasonable extent; it doesn’t have to define appropriate government , which already includes central and state agencies that operationalise particular areas of work.”