United Nations on new IT laws

The UN special rapporteurs have sent a letter to the Indian government expressing serious concerns about the new IT regulations that have been communicated to regulate social media intermediaries, streaming platforms and digital news media.

They called on the Indian government to withdraw, revise or revise some key aspects of the 2021 Information Technology Regulation (guidelines for intermediaries and code of ethics for digital media) due to the restrictions or violation of a wide range of human rights.

“We are concerned that the 2021 rules on information technology (mediation guidelines and code of ethics for digital media), in their current form, do not conform to International human rights standards, “aid a letter written by three United Nations special rapporteurs.

This 8-page letter is written by Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Clement Njaletsossi Woole, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and Joseph Cannatachi, Rapporteur on the right to the integrity of private life.

They argued that the provisions on first-sender tracing, intermediary liability and executive oversight of digital media content violate the rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the International Covenant on civil and political rights. In addition, they expressed their concerns about regulations that violate encryption of social media platforms and thereby violate the privacy rights of users. The presenters also suggested that Part 3 of the rules will affect the freedom of digital news publishers.

The Government of India responded to the above report stating that IT regulation is designed with the principles of reasonableness and proportionality in mind and that the government respects the right to privacy and media freedom. The Indian government told the UN that IT regulations are “designed to empower ordinary users of social media” and that the government held extensive consultations with civil society and other stakeholders in 2018.

Petitions have been filed with four high courts in the country to challenge the operation of computer rules. In March, the Delhi High Court was seized by Internet media The Wire and then The Quint. The Kannadanews portal Pratidhwani filed a complaint with the Karnataka High Court for breaking the rules. WhatsApp recently filed a petition with the Delhi Supreme Court to challenge the “traceability clause” under Part II of the rules. Google later also filed a complaint with the Delhi High Court against the rules. Recently, singer TM Krishna filed a rule violation with the Madras High Court.

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