The main requirement of the rule is that social media platforms have to appoint a resident grievance officer who is from India as part of a larger grievance redressal mechanism
Hyderabad: Social media platforms are abuzz with discussions on a possible ban on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many users are confused over what is happening and believe that the Union government has imposed restrictions from Wednesday as a retort to the Twitter Toolkit row and ‘manipulated media’ tag.
However, the new guidelines that are applicable for the bigger social media platforms, which come under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were actually issued on February 25. So the rules came into effect in February. The government had then given three months for the platforms to comply. Those three months end on Wednesday. So these guidelines and IT rules are not directly linked to the toolkit or manipulated media issues.
A social media platform with more than five million users in India comes under the ambit of the IT rules. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Koo fall into the category. Other than social media platforms, Google, YouTube and OTT platforms too come under this purview.
The main requirement of the rule is that social media platforms have to appoint a resident grievance officer who is from India as part of a larger grievance redressal mechanism. This officer has responsibilities of monitoring content on the platform, responding to grievances and expediting the processes to take down objectionable content. The rule also says that in case of shared content/messages, the platforms should have a mechanism to help authorities to identify the original creator of the content/message.
These platforms have to publish the details of the officer and about the new rules in their websites and mobile applications.
Even after three months, only Indian-made Koo app has come forward to meet the requirements of the rule. Facebook has announced that they are ready to follow the rules, but have some concerns that needed to be discussed with the GOI authorities. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has challenged the rule and filed a complaint against the government in the Delhi High Court, saying some sections in the rule are an infringement on the privacy of users. Twitter has not responded yet.
The short answer is No. Social media platforms can continue operations without abiding by the rules. But they will lose the legal immunity protection of the Section 79 of IT rules. Section 79 says, an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him. But if they are not obeying the rules, this protection will be lost and the company can be prosecuted for the objectionable content posted by any user.
The rule does not directly put any new restrictions on users. Regarding identifying and removing the ‘objectionable content’, the existing laws are enough. The new rule has set the tone for timely action on these.
But the new rules are raising some concerns about the privacy of users in WhatsApp. Identifying the original creator means the user is being monitored. That is why WhatsApp has challenged the rule in the Court.
OTT platforms were also asked to form a grievance redressal committee with a High Court judge/expert as a member. They also have to register complaints in 24 hours and address those within 15 days. They were also asked to make sure that minors are not watching pornographic content on their platforms.
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