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Social Networking Giants yet to comply with Government’s norms under new Intermediary Liability Rules as deadline nears

Social Networking Giants yet to comply with Government’s norms under new Intermediary Liability Rules as deadline nears

As the deadlines for compliance with the new norms for social media intermediaries looms closer, with just two days to go, none of the social media giants including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram has fulfilled the requirements laid down under the new Intermediary Liability Rules. 

The new social media rules were notified on February 25th, 2021, at a press conference, where Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the 'basic essence of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 is a mechanics to deal with the issues such as the persistent spread of fake news, abuse of these platforms of share morphed pictures of women and content related to revenge porn or to settle corporate rivalries.'

As per the new guidelines under the IT Rules, 2021, as a part of Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, Messaging Apps such as WhatsApp or Signal will likely have to dilute end-to-end encryption to help trace the ‘first originator’ of the unlawful message and platforms like Facebook will have to include the provision of KYC (know your customer) and display a tag for those who seek it in the form of a blue tick feature for everyone upon the fulfilment of the requisites.

Additionally, the intermediaries will also have to provide information or assistance to authorized government agencies for investigative or protective or cybersecurity activities, for the purpose of verification of identity, or for the prevention, detection and investigation of any penal offence or cybersecurity incident. The intermediaries will have to appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with the complaints and share the name and contact details of such an officer, who shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.

The government had given the intermediaries three months to comply with the new norm and fulfil the requirements with the deadline expiring on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021. The intermediaries had sought an extension; however, the government did not seem in the mood to hear any pleas. 

The failure to comply with the rules could prove to be detrimental to the interest of the social media giants as it could lead to the erosion of the safe harbour protection given to the intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.

The new rules have been welcomed by think-tanks and exert ad the ‘new well-intended rules’ but added that these guidelines could also undermine the principle of open access Internet and violate the right to privacy and free speech in the absence of strong data protection legislation.

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