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The new IT rules have initiated a tussle between Government and Social Media companies. The government wants compliance while the companies are hesitant to adopt them on the grounds of privacy and freedom.
- The fault lines are hardening between the government and social media companies over the adoption of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
- WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court to challenge the traceability provisions under the new rules.
- As per the platform, implementing such a provision would infringe on the users’ “fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech”.
- Experts believe that this petition was filed after witnessing inappropriate behavior on the part of the government.
- The Delhi police had recently visited Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurgaon to serve the platform a notice over its flawed way of identifying “manipulated media”.
Issues in new IT rules:
- Firstly, the government will be performing a dual role of an appellant and arbitrator. This is against the principle of natural justice as a person can’t be made a judge in his own cause.
- Secondly, a blanket demand on traceability may allow the government to wield power in an arbitrary manner for purposes that remain opaque.
- Further such a demand is unnecessary as the companies have on various occasions complied with the government’s requests on issues pertaining to terror, child abuse, national security, etc.
- The provisions of the Indian Penal code are sufficient to ensure companies’ compliance with government requests.
Concerns associated with Social Media Companies:
- There is not much clarity over the policy adopted by them before taking down content. Despite their professions of faith in openness, the decision-making processes of these platforms are wrapped in secrecy.
- Further, they evade their responsibility as per their convenience by invoking the protection granted under Section 79 of the IT Act 2000.
- It states that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for the following things. They are, any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
Thus, the judiciary should decide the case in the following manner. It should decide in such a way that targeted access is given to the government. And, subject to due process gets cleared by a neutral arbiter.