New IT rules: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram could be banned in India from tomorrow

The three-month deadline issued by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITy) to accept these guidelines ends today i.e. May 25 threatening the operation of big social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram.

On February 25, the Centre released The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 for regulating content on OTT and social media platforms. 

The government had set 50 lakh registered users as the threshold for defining ”significant social media intermediary”, which will have to adhere to additional obligations and compliance under the new IT rules that seek to crack down on the exploitation of social media platforms.

1.  According to the guidelines such platforms as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram- have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, a resident grievance officer, and a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. They also have to publish periodic compliance reports every month mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.

2.  The companies will have to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

3.   Users who voluntarily want to verify their accounts should be given an appropriate mechanism to do so and be accorded a visible mark of verification. 

4.  Users will have to be provided with a prior intimation and explanation when a significant social media intermediary removes content on its own. In such cases, users have to be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.

5.  And, social media platforms have to track a message’s originator if the government or a court asks them to. This rule has raised concerns as it’s a breach of privacy and a serious threat to democracy. Some people have stated the rule to be unconstitutional and a threat to freedom of speech.

That is, the social media platforms will risk losing the intermediary immunity and ultimately banned if not complied with the rules.

If the intermediaries lose their immunity;

  • They will be equally responsible for any unlawful content (for example obscene pictures or impersonation) as the person posting such content under the Indian Penal Code.
  •   every user post on these platforms would be considered as being published by the companies, making them criminally liable for any content deemed illegal.
  • As a publisher, platforms will have to proactively censor content before they appear online.

 The giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have failed to meet certain deadlines under the Centre’s new IT rules.

However, homegrown social media platform Koo, which is the Indian version of Twitter, is the only platform that has so far accepted the Centre’s intermediary guidelines.

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