Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) has released ‘Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)’ for the new Information Technology rules and intermediary guidelines, which came into effect on May 26, 2021.
The document laid down the protocols that intermediaries need to follow including taking down content.
In February 25, 2021, MeitY published the new intermediary guidelines that needed to be followed by social media companies, OTT players, and also news websites, who were given three months’ time to comply with the rules. One of the mandates include appointment of chief compliance, grievance and nodal officer for the social media companies with over 50 lakh users. The companies also need to remove or disable content when requested by the government within 36 hours.
Announcing the rules, the then IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that focus of the rules is to empower ordinary users of social media for whom fake news and financial fraud are one of the huge challenges. The idea is to have major social media platforms develop redressal mechanism with "soft touch" oversight from the government, he added.
The FAQs share details on the process.
Removing and disabling content
An intermediary should remove or disable access to content when the order comes from an appropriate government or its agency within 36 hours. The agency will share with the intermediary the link to be disabled/removed, specific clause or law that was violated, justification and evidence, and other relevant information
Compliance, nodal and Grievance officer
Companies should have a separate grievance and compliance officer, and should be named separately on the site with details on how to reach to them. In case a parent company has multiple other platforms, the same officers can be used for both but their names should be mentioned on individual sites.
Timeframe to complete actions
Grievance officer should acknowledge any reports within 24 hours, and the issue should be resolved in 15 days. If an order to remove content comes through to remove content from courts or government agencies, the action should be done in 36 hours, and 72 hours to provide information the intermediary has in its possession when asked by the government.
First originator of information
The new IT rules has mandated that significant social media intermediary share the originator of information when required. WhatsApp had filed a suit against the government stating that this would break end-to-end encryption.
The government clarified in its FAQ that, “The intent of this rule is not to break or weaken the encryption in any way but merely to obtain the registration details of the first Indian originator of the message. The electronic replica of the message (text, photo or video, etc.) will be shared by the requesting agency along with a lawful order.”
While encryption ensures safety and security of the data, and the privacy norms self-imposed by the intermediary may be needed, the centre said that it is also imperative that the platforms should not be used to carry out sharing of any unlawful content as specified under the IT Rules, 2021 and other applicable laws.