Govt, on Feb. 25, notified Rules, giving them 3 months for compliance
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has written to all significant social media intermediaries — who have over 50 lakh registered users in the country, requesting details of compliance with the new guidelines that came into effect on Wednesday, despite several requests of extension from the industry.
In a letter dated May 26, the ministry has sought confirmation and details, including contact details of the chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer, “ASAP and preferably today itself”, from all significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs).
The Union government, on February 25, notified the ‘The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’, giving the SSMIs three months for compliance.
“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…Accordingly, as part of ascertaining the compliance to these Rules, you are requested to provide the following information…” the ministry said in the letter.
The SSMIs have to give details such as name of app/website or service, physical contact address in India, compliance status of the rules. In case these platforms are not considered a SSMI, they have to submit reasons along with registered users on each of the services provided.
“The Government reserves the right to seek any additional information, as may be permitted within these Rules and the IT Act. Please confirm and share your response ASAP and preferably today itself,” the letter stated.
The new rules make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram to aid in identifying “originator” of “unlawful” messages, while also requiring social media networks to take down such messages within a specific time frame, set up grievance redressal mechanism as well as assist the government agencies in investigation.
Due to non-compliance of these laws, the SSMIs could lose the ‘safe harbour’ protection that currently gives them protection against liability (civil as well as criminal) for content posted on their platform by third party users.
Stand of Facebook
On Tuesday, Facebook said it “aims to comply” with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues that need more engagement with the government. Telegram had said it has complied with “almost all the new IT laws”, while Indian microblogging platform Koo said it had met the compliance requirements. Twitter and WhatsApp have not commented on whether they are in compliance with the new laws.
Google too did not specify whether it was in full compliance of the new rules. It, however, said on Tuesday that “We respect India’s legislative process and have a long history of responding to government requests to remove content where the content violates the local law or our product policies. We have consistently invested in significant product changes, resources, and personnel to ensure that we’re combating illegal content in an effective and fair way, and in order to comply with local laws in the jurisdictions that we operate in.”
Over the past two months, various industry bodies, including the CII, FICCI, US-India Business Council (USIBC), Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, have written to the government seeking up to a one-year compliance window, particularly in the view of the pandemic.
Citing the second COVID-19 wave in the country, the industry had expressed its inability to comply within the stipulated timeline. They stated that transition to the newly notified rules required extensive capacity building, new operational models, product redesign, and personnel on boarding.