Social Media Intermediary Guidelines: Full load of what the govt announced

Topics Social Media | Twitter | Facebook

Minister for Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad
The rules for social media, also called Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, were notified by the cabinet on February 25.

Three years in the making, the rules add a bunch of compliance for social media companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube. ‘Significant social media intermediaries’ – decided on the basis of user base – will abide by the new laws, and must comply within three months of the rules being published in the official gazette.

Business Standard breaks-down key features of the new legislation:

Due Diligence by Intermediaries: The rules prescribe that due diligence must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.

Grievance Redressal: The rules mandate intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users. Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.

Online Safety and preserving dignity of users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his or her behalf.

Two categories of social media intermediaries: To encourage growth of new social media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement, the Rules make a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform. The government will notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.

Physical presence: Significant social media intermediaries shall appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the laws. Such a person should be a resident in India; A Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident in India; A Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under Grievance Redressal Mechanism. All the three positions must be based in India. Significant social media intermediary shall also have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.

Month compliance report: Intermediaries shall publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.

Source of mischievous content: Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years. Intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator.

Voluntary user verification: Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with demonstrable and visible mark of verification. 

Hearing users against whom complaint is made: In cases where significant social media intermediaries removes or disables access to any information on their own accord, then a prior intimation for the same shall be communicated to the user who has shared that information with a notice explaining the grounds and reasons for such action. Users must be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary. 

Removal of unlawful information: An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government or its agencies should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.

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