Government notifies Amendments to the Information Technology Rules 2021 for an Open, Safe & Trusted and Accountable Internet
In a major push towards an Open, Safe & Trusted and Accountable Internet, the Ministry of Electronics and IT notified the amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. It is aimed at protecting the rights of Digital Nagriks. It also enhances due diligence requirements and ensuring accountability of social media and other intermediaries. They have been notified against the backdrop of complaints regarding the action/inaction on the part of the intermediaries on user grievances regarding objectionable content or suspension of their accounts.
The intermediaries now will be expected to ensure that there is no uploading of content that intentionally communicates any misinformation or information that is patently false or untrue hence entrusting an important responsibility on intermediaries.
The rules also have made it explicit for the intermediary to respect the rights accorded to the citizens of India under the Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution
The amendments were notified after the Ministry followed an exhaustive public consultation process involving all stakeholders.
Key changes effected in the rules are as under:
Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content. The new provision will ensure that the intermediary’s obligation is not a mere formality.
For effective communication of the rules and regulations of the intermediary, it is important that the communication is done in regional Indian languages as well.
The grounds in rule 3(1)(b)(ii) have been rationalized by removing the words ‘defamatory’ and ‘libellous’. Whether any content is defamatory or libellous will be determined through judicial review.
Some of the content categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been rephrased to deal particularly with misinformation, and content that could incite violence between different religious/caste groups.
The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.
Grievance Appellate Committee(s) will be established to allow users to appeal against the inaction of, or decisions taken by intermediaries on user complaints. However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.