Digital media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may possibly face a ban in India from 26th of May 2021, if they continue to ignore the mandatory compliance of “New Intermediary Guidelines“, which was a response to the increasing abuse of such platforms to spread hate and crime speeches for which no mandatory steps were taken.
The deadline to accept the guidelines was set by the government to end on May 25 none of the media platforms have even after 3 months of time provided by the Government has complied with the new regulations and regulated themselves accordingly.
Back In February 2021, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITy) had declared the allowance of the three months time period for the social media platforms to regulate in accord with the rules set by the government. Whether the platforms mentioned supra will lose their status and protections that are provided to them as intermediaries is to be observed further on 26th of May, which will be clarified by the upcoming response by the Government.
A Government official detailed in a statement how if not complied with the orders criminal actions can also be taken against such platforms as per the laws of India. However, the point to note here is that one of the US-based companies had asked for extension of period from three months to six , reason being they are still waiting for a response from the US headquarters.
The spokesperson for the Facebook in a conference said: “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform.”
Moreover, the protection enjoyed by the OTT and digital media platforms as an “Intermediary” dealt u/s 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 will be revoked and they will directly be liable. Their status as third person will no longer be recognised if they don’t comply the rules ,mentioned the Guidelines.
The discussion below will inaugurate transparency into what exactly are the Intermediary Guidelines by the Government and the relevant surrounding facts everyone should be aware of.
NEW INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES, BACKGROUND AND RULES
Government on 25th of February 2021 had notified “Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021“, which specify that only after complying with the rules can medias be welcomed to expand their businesses further otherwise they’ll be subject to criminal liabilities and constitutional law.
“While finalizing these Rules, both the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook elaborate consultations among themselves in order to have a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc” where “Part- II of these Rules shall be administered by Ministry of Electronics and IT, while Part-III relating to Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital media shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting”, reports by PIB.
Rules and features ~
• Due Diligence as priority is expected to be followed by Intermediaries otherwise no safe harbour will be provided.
• Establishment of Grievance Redressal Mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims for which Intermediaries were asked to appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints within twenty four hours and to resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.
• For Ensuring dignity and safety of users (Women specifically) ,to deal with increase in content getting viral as nude or morphed images etc. which trigger the dignity of Individuals (users). For an example: The boys locker room case.
• The Categorisation of Social Media Intermediaries for encouragement of innovations which is distinguished on the basis of the number of users on the social media platform.
• Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer to put the compliance with the Act and Rules on continuous surveillance.
• Appointment of a Nodal Contact Person for regular 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies for quick action taking mechanism.
• Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer to perform duties as a delegate under Grievance Redressal Mechanism for publishing of a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received, actions taken as well as details of contents removed proactively.
NECESSITIES AND RISK FACTOR
1) Lack of transparency and accountability towards rights of users with OTT platforms.
2) With active user date of “WhatsApp users: 53 Crore ,YouTube users: 44.8 Crore ,Facebook users: 41 Crore,Instagram users: 21 Crore, Twitter users: 1.75 Crore” to target every individual with anything and everything has become a major concern to be curbed.
3) No existing complaint mechanism where the users can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline.
4) Absence of quick grievance redressal mechanism leaving the users to be diluted with what actions to take further.
5) Regular spread of fake news and its abuse of usage for targetting women , individual’s dignity , children via acts as revenge porn, phishing, threatening etc.
6) Using the platform for defamation and disrespecting religious sentiments.
7) Rapid use of such platforms by anti social elements for mind washing and recruitment to the terrorist organisations, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, inducement for violation of public order and so on.
ADVANTAGES • The proposed guideline framework which is prospectively to be adopted is considered progressive, liberal and contemporaneous in public interest, which can further safeguard the fabric of society and secure the mechanism of virtual reality.
• The said guidelines foundationally differentiate between Television broadcasting, Cinema and theatres, and Internet users for the categorised entertaining of complaints and modes of infringement to understand the scenario better for actions to be taken accordingly.
• Redressal of grievances and self regulatory mechanism withing the aforementioned platforms.
• Encouragement of independency within country regarding making of softwares and connectivity applications like KOO (Indian alternative of Twitter).
• Control over incidents by authorities within country such applications will be answerable towards.
• Easy application of laws of country without confusion of main server access and it’s parallel use in another country.
• Encouragement to young intellectuals for Independent innovations.
• Strength towards privacy management and data leak system.
1) The guidelines that mandate the enabling of identification of the first originator of the information that is allegedly required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment for 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, are supposed to infringe the right to privacy ( Safeguarded by Article 21 of the Constitution of India) because the Personal/ Sensitive/Critical Data of the users will be accessed by the government authorities.
2) One of the rules specify the “Removal of Unlawful Information” which can trigger right to speech and freedom of expression at times provided no exhaustive list can be prospected in regards to what comes under the definition of Unlawful according to the Government.
3) Right to privacy as was observed by the judiciary in Aadhar judgment (Justice K. S. Puttaswamy v Union of India) clarifies the right of users over their data. Which even indirectly cannot be stored without their permission. And in the view of such judgment the current guidelines do somewhere infringe the accountability of freedom and right to expression.
Although the social media platforms and the virtual reality has made things easy for Individuals with access to plethora of content that can help in enhancing creativity, getting queries solved, be informed and be able to voluntarily without hesitation share their views, including criticism of the Government and such authorities which are superior and cannot be contacted easily with. From expanding businesses to converting the pandemic situation into an opportunity via virtual platforms, digital media has always proved to play an important role.
However, the other side of the story is, the medias Individuals use is not always encrypted but a private player, which at alot of instances used the data to trigger and convert it into an opportunity to make profit. The private players in the sector indeed have always mentioned about the safety measures adopted but problems as Different laws of Different country, a country specific sensitive issue, misuse of platforms etc leave the users into a vulnerable state which needs to be secured somehow.
With on the one side empowerment opportunities and on the flipping side sensitive risk factors the digital platforms with specifically over 50 lakhs of users on it separately is a two sided coin. Be it taking strict actions on Facebook internationally to criticizing the Privacy policies of WhatsApp, from time to time the concerns have been addressed and encountered by the users.
“Civil Society, film makers over issues as piracy, political leaders including Chief Minister, trade organizations and associations have all voiced their concerns and highlighted the imperative need for an appropriate institutional mechanism. The Government also received many complaints from civil society and parents requesting interventions” , mentioned the PIB report.
Not only the advantages but also the criticism of the steps supposed to be taken by the government needs to be viewed seriously. For the reason being in the tug war of Government and private players only users are going to be highly impacted. To be free from the clutches of private digital media platforms and end up being confined within the grab of government can also not be considered a wise step. Hence, it’s upto the individuals to consider, conclude and raise voice to support and have the policies/rules mended if Important in the interest of public at par.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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