New IT Rules,2021 and the issue of non-compliance.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has notified the IT(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 in the Gazette on February 25th,2021.

The Government had asked the significant social media intermediaries to comply with the rules within three months i.e. by 25th May 2021. However, many of these platforms are yet to comply with the new guidelines.

Note: Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users are considered as ‘significant social media intermediaries’.

Key Provisions New IT Rules,2021:
  • Firstly, Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. This information is “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
  • Secondly, If such information is hosted or published, the government can take down such information within 24 hours. The user will be given a notice before his/her content is taken down.
  • Thirdly, the government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  • Fourthly, the IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • Fifthly, social media platforms are classified into two categories
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  • Lastly, the significant social media intermediaries have to follow few additional measures like:
    • These platforms should have a physical contact address in India.
    • Appointing a Chief Compliance OfficerNodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
      • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
      • The Resident Grievance Officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
Possible outcome for non-compliance of New IT Rules,2021
  • The government can take action against companies if they do not comply with the new guidelines by citing Rule 7 of the IT 2021 Rules.
  • Rule 7 states that if any intermediary fails to comply with the guidelines, the provisions of Section 79(1) of the Information Technology Act,2000 shall not apply to such an intermediary.
  • Section 79 of the IT Act provides the ‘safe harbour’ regime status to Social Media Intermediaries. This status provides protection against liability for content posted on their websites by third parties.
  • In other words, the social media platforms will lose their intermediary status. This implies that every user post on these platforms will be considered as posts published by the companies. This will make them criminally liable for any content deemed illegal.

Source: The Hindu

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