Govt to announce social media guidelines for Facebook, Twitter and others

Topics Social Media | Twitter | Facebook

The rules are going to be called “Information Technology (guidelines for intermediaries and digital media ethics code) rules 2021
The government is today expected to announce the social media and intermediary guidelines, which will be applicable to firms like Facebook, Google, Twitter and others.

According to a document shared by the Internet Freedom Foundation ahead of the formal announcement, the rules are going to be called “Information Technology (guidelines for intermediaries and digital media ethics code) rules 2021".

The rules define an intermediary as including "websites, apps and portals of social media networks, media sharing websites, blogs, online discussion forums and other such functionally similar intermediaries".

A social media intermediary has been defined as one "which primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services" 

However, it does not include intermediaries that enable commercial or business oriented transactions, provide access to internet or computer networks, or are in the nature of search-engines, on-line encyclopaedias, online directories or suggestion tools, e-mail services or online storage services.

This could mean that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube and so on qualify as intermediaries, but not cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services. However, further clarity on the definitions will become clearer once the government formally notifies the rules. 

In addition to a grievance officer whose details should be prominently displayed on the platform, the rules also ask for the appointment of a "Chief Compliance Officer" to ensure adherence to the Act and rules. This person will be "liable for any proceedings relating to any relevant third-party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by that intermediary where he fails to ensure that such intermediary observes due diligence while discharging its duties under the Act". 

Apart from the compliance officer, the intermediaries will also have to appoint a "nodal person of contact for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure compliance to their orders or requisitions made in accordance with the provisions of law or rules made thereunder". There should also be a resident grievance officer.

All three of these persons should be employed by the intermediary and be resident Indians with valid Indian passports. 

Intermediaries will have to take down content within 36 hours of being served a legal notice or an appropriate government agency under Section 79 (b) (93) of the Information Technology Act. 

The rules say the intermediary "shall not host, store or publish any information prohibited by any law in relation to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India: the security of the State; friendly relations with foreign States; public order; decency or morality; in relation to contempt of court; defamation; incitement to an offence, or information which violates any law for the time being in force". 

The rules also state that the intermediary will have to inform its users about its privacy policy at least once a year and whenever there is an update to the policy. "Where an intermediary collects information from a user for registration on the computer resource, it shall retain his information for a period of one hundred and eighty days after any cancellation or withdrawal of his registration, as the case may be," the rules say. 

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