The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has said that it is in the process of amending the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, so as to make the social media platforms more "responsive and accountable".
The disclosure is in response to a question raised in Rajya Sabha by AITC's Nadimul Haque, seeking information on Government's plan to issue notification or rules to social media intermediaries regarding 'sharing of data' on request from Government agencies.
Minister of State in the Central Government, responding on behalf of the Ministry said that the Rules are presently under consideration and are yet to be finalized.
There have been plenty of legal proceedings, demanding that the intermediaries be held accountable for the damage done to society through fake news or rumours spread through their platforms.
Under the present regime, Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 stipulates that an intermediary shall not be liable for content or communication link uploaded by third parties. To avail protection under this provision however, an intermediary should have acted with due diligence and should not have:
The law also prescribes a 'notice and takedown' regime. This regime, as decided in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, (2013) 12 SCC 73 stipulates that an intermediary will take down objectionable content from its website upon acquiring 'actual knowledge' of the same; by means of a judicial or governmental order, specifically requiring the intermediary to disable such content.
There is no law however, enabling the government to summon requisite data from these social media handles. Last year the Subodh Gupta case drew a lot of attention, whereby the Delhi HC made an unprecedented direction to Instagram to reveal the identity of the person behind the Instagram handle 'Herdsceneand', an anonymous Instagram page that published posts containing sexual harassment accusations against leading Indian contemporary artist, Subodh Gupta.
The top court had also last year directed the government to come up with guidelines to prevent misuse of social media by balancing the interests of online privacy and state sovereignty. A petition seeking linkage of Aadhaar with social media accounts to curb creation of bogus accounts is also pending consideration in the Supreme Court.