Govt finalising IT rules for social media to trace original source of info

The government is finalising new IT rules for social media companies that would mandate traceability of originator of information on such platforms and removal of malicious content within 24 hours of notice, Parliament was informed on Thursday.

The proposed new norms include deployment of technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

In December last year, the information technology ministry had sought public feedback on amendments to IT Rules for social media platforms and messaging apps in a bid to curb misuse of such platforms for spreading fake news.

"MeitY received 171 comments and 80 counter comments from individual, civil society, industry associations and organisations. The comments so received have been analysed and the Rules are being finalised," Dhotre said.

He noted that social media platforms are intermediaries as defined in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, and that they have to follow certain due diligence as prescribed in the IT Rules.

Dhotre said the key features of proposed amendments in the due diligence to be followed by intermediaries include periodically informing the users for compliance of rules and regulations as well as users agreement and privacy policy.

The proposal also suggests that social media platforms will have to bring in traceability of the originator of the information, and remove malicious content in 24 hours upon receiving a court order or when notified by appropriate government authorities, he added.

Messaging giant WhatsApp has, in the past, drawn flak from the government on the issue of message traceability. The government has been asking the Facebook-owned company to find ways to identify originators of rogue messages but the US-based firm has resisted the demand citing privacy concerns.

Significant intermediaries with over 50 lakh users will have to set up an office in India and appoint a nodal officer for liaisoning with law enforcement agencies, according to the proposed changes.

Such platforms will also have to deploy technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content, Dhotre said.

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