This is how new IT rules are empowering social media users in India

IT Rules 2021 are the set of guidelines meant to empower the social media and digital media users along with making a secure social network in the country. The new social media rules provide a means of addressing grievances of content that can be harmful to the nation’s security as well as the modesty or safety of a person.

On similar lines, recently the Delhi High Court has mandated the microblogging site Twitter to comply with the IT rules 2021.

A single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli said, “Social media platforms, including Twitter, have to comply with the new intermediary laws the central government has notified under the IT Act.”

Further, the bench also issued notice to Twitter asking it to respond to the matter in the next hearing, which is scheduled for July 6.

Interacting with the media, Union Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The new IT rules have not come immediately, there has been a proper comprehension and planning behind it. The main point is not the use of social media but the misuse of it. So, if there is a misuse, the social media companies have to appoint a grievance officer to report and resolve the concern within 14 days.”

Besides calling for the establishment of a grievance officer, the new IT rules also mandate tech firms to identify the “first originator” of “unlawful” content when asked, among other things. The appointment of a grievance officer is part of a mandated 3-tier grievance redressal mechanism topped by an oversight committee set up by the government.

Meanwhile, Twitter has been charged with giving false information and violating the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO)Act, and an FIR has been lodged.

“We have written to the Centre requesting that children not be given access to Twitter until the platform is safe for them,” said National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairman Priyank Kanoongo while interacting with the media earlier this week.

Other social media giants WhatsApp and Facebook have implemented the new rules of the Government of India. Along with Google without any opposition.

What are the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021?

On February 25 this year, the Indian government had announced strict regulations for social media firms, directing them to remove any content flagged by the authorities within 36 hours and setting up a robust complaint redressal mechanism with a grievance officer being based in the country.

Under the new IT rules, social media companies have to publish a monthly compliance report with the details of complaints received and action taken along with the content details removed pro-actively. The tech companies are also required to have a physical contact address in India published on their website or mobile app, or both.

According to the data by the Indian government, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 21 crore Instagram users, while 1.75 crore account holders are on microblogging platform Twitter.

The new rules were introduced to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram, which have seen a phenomenal surge in usage over the past few years in India more accountable and responsible for the content hosted on their platform.

Notably, the rules require significant social media intermediaries — providing services primarily in the nature of messaging — to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines the sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order.

The new social media rules will have major ramifications for platforms like Twitter. It also states that 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, thereby enabling a whole new and secure social media ecosystem in India.



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