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Government Of India Writes To Social Media Platforms Asking Them About Compliance With IT Rules 2021

Sparsh Upadhyay
26 May 2021 1:37 PM GMT
Government Of India Writes To Social Media Platforms Asking Them About Compliance With IT Rules 2021
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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India writes to Social Media Platforms Requesting them to furnish details of compliance with the new "The Information Technology Intermediary (Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.#JustInGovernment of India writes to social media platforms, asking them about compliance with IT...

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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India writes to Social Media Platforms Requesting them to furnish details of compliance with the new "The Information Technology Intermediary (Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The three-month window that the Central Government provided to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. to comply with the new social media rules, ended yesterday.

The Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified by the Centre on February 25, 2021, to inter alia regulate the social media intermediaries by imposing a code of ethics and mandating a three-tier grievance redressal framework.

The Rules provide 16-due diligence steps to be followed by intermediaries in India. This includes an obligation to not host, store or publish any information which is prohibited by virtue of it not being in the interest of public order; decency or morality; sovereignty and integrity of India; security of the State; etc.

The Rules also empower the Centre to ask messaging platforms like 'WhatsApp', 'Facebook messenger', 'Telegram' to trace the 'first originator' of messages.

In its letter, the Government has reiterated that a social media intermediary having fifty lakh (5 million) registered users in India will be considered a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI) and that Part-lI of the Rules broadly prescribe the due diligence to be followed by:

  1. All Intermediaries as defined in the IT Act, 2000.
  2. Additional set of due diligence for SSMI

The letter written to Social Media Platforms states:

"As you including your parent company or any other subsidiary, provide a variety of services in India some of which falls within the definition of SSMIS in the context of the IT Act and the aforesaid Rules. Accordingly, as part of ascertaining compliance to these Rules, you are requested to provide the following information:

a) Name of App./ Website/ service falling within the scope of a significant social media intermediary

b) The details of :

• Chief Compliance Officer and the contact details

• Nodsl Contact Person and ihe contact details

• Resident Grievance Officer and the coniaci derails.

• The physical contact address in lndin

c) Compliance status of these Rules."

In related news, in its plea to challenge the traceability clause as mentioned under Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, WhatsApp has contended that the aforesaid requirement will "force it to build the ability to identify the first originator for every message sent in India on its platform upon request by the government forever."

Relying heavily on the judgment of KS Puttuswamy v. Union of India, WhatsApp contends that the said requirement does not pass the tests enshrined under Art. 21 of the Constitution, is manifestly arbitrary in violation of Art. 14, is violative of the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and sec. 79 and 69A of the Information Technology Act.

In a press release released on Wednesday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has clarified that the Government respects the right to privacy and has no intention to violate it when requiring WhatsApp to disclose the origin of a message.

"Such Requirements are only in case when the message is required for Prevention, Investigation or Punishment of Very Serious Offences related to the 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." It has been clarified.

Stating that the Government of India recognises that 'Right to Privacy' as being a valuable fundamental right, the press release informs that Minister of Law and Justice of India, Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated that "none of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and for the common users, there will be no impact".

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