Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp banned trends on several platforms as today is the last day for these social media giants to comply with the new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules 2021 or the new IT Rules 2021 announced by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY). The Government of India says that these rules have been formulated to empower ordinary users of social media, and embodying a mechanism for the redressal and timely resolution of their grievance.
The Indian Government has made it very clear through these new IT Rules 2021 that while social media companies are more than welcome to do business in India they would be required to follow the Constitution and Laws of India. Further, the social media platforms in question will have to be accountable for their misuse and abuse. So far, reportedly only the Indian version of Twitter, Koo, has complied with these new rules.
Why Were the New IT Rules 2021 Introduced for Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp?
The Government of India says that while they were ok with citizens ok with using social media platforms to question and criticize, there ought to be certain guidelines to ensure that those misusing the platforms are punished. Some of the disturbing events observed by the Government of India are as follows:
- Spreading of fake news.
- Morphed images of women and content related to revenge porn.
- Misuse of social media for settling corporate rivalries.
- Abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments.
- Misuse of social media by criminals, and anti-national elements to spread disharmony, cause financial frauds, and incitement of violence among others.
What Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp Need to Do
- The Government of India says that if social media platforms do not comply with these rules then safe harbour provisions, which are legal provisions to sidestep or eliminate legal or regulatory liability in certain situations, will no longer apply to them.
- Social media platforms will have to establish a grievance redressal mechanism to receive and resolve complaints received from social media users. The grievance will have ti be registered within 24 hours and resolved within 15 days.
- When morphed images or videos of women are concerned, social media platforms will have to remove or disable access within 24 hours of receiving the complaints.
- Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp will have to appoint chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer to take care of all the grievances.
- A monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media platform will have to be pubished.
- Social media platforms will have to provide a physical contact address in India published on its website and mobile app.
Could Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp be Banned?
This may be a possibility if the social media platforms do not accept these rules soon as the Government of India had made it clear that the new IT Rules 2021 will come into effect from 26 May 2021. While Facebook has stated that the platform wishes to comply with the rules, Twitter is yet to respond on the matter.
What Experts Say About the New IT Rules 2021?
Rajnesh Singh, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific – Internet Society has called on the broader community, including the private sector, to reject efforts to undermine encryption and pursue policies that enhance, strengthen and promote the use of strong encryption to protect people everywhere. “On the surface, these Guidelines seem to aim squarely at social media platforms and addressing the growing proliferation of fake news and problematic materials posted online. This includes a traceability requirement, or the ability to track down the originator of a particular piece of content or message” he said.
“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has emphasized that encryption is not a target in these new IT Rules 2021. Yet here’s the problem, as cybersecurity experts have pointed out, both in India and abroad, tracing a content’s originator is technically problematic. It is simply not possible for companies to try to comply with the new guidelines without suppressing at least some features that are integral for strong encryption to work properly. The likely outcome will be for those platforms to stop offering end-to-end encrypted services altogether. With the traceability requirement, the government appears to be compelling popular online platforms to weak encryption without explicitly telling them to do so,” he added in his article in Dataquest.