“Significant social media intermediaries”, or big sites that host third-party information, messages, and posts, will stand to lose protection from lawsuits and prosecution if they fail to comply with the new IT rules rules.
The Government of India on Wednesday wrote to major social media platforms on whether they had complied with new digital rules taking effect today and asked them to respond “ASAP, preferably today”.
Breaking news: the Indian government has sent this letter to social media platforms, asking them about compliance with IT Rules 2021, @GoI_MeitY has confirmed to @medianama .
Rule 7 states that significant social media platforms lose intermediary status if they are non compliant pic.twitter.com/cHmTMPaqBE
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) May 26, 2021
Social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter were given three months to comply with the new rules that came in on 25th February, which require them to appoint a compliance officer in India, set up a grievance response mechanism, and takedown content within 36 hours of a legal order.
The note from the Ministry of Electronics and IT has asked the platforms to give the name and contact details of a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person, a resident grievance officer, and a physical address of the company in India and “share their response asap, preferably today”
The controversial new IT Rules 2021 have been criticized for breaching the right to privacy. Some of the clauses involve the platforms to set up a mechanism to respond to complaints and also enable tracing the “first originator” of information found to “undermine the sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order”.
“Significant social media intermediaries”, or big sites that host third-party information, messages, and posts, will stand to lose protection from lawsuits and prosecution if they fail to comply with the rules.
This means that big tech companies can no longer be just intermediaries, which gave them legal immunity from objectionable content posted by users. They will be treated as any other publishing platform and are brought under the ambit of Indian law (according to Rule 7 of the rules)
Messaging platform WhatsApp has approached the court against the rules, saying it will be compelled to trace the origin of messages and break the ‘end to end encryption for users, a feature through which it guarantees that no one outside of a chat, not even WhatsApp can read or listen to them unless they’re marked as ‘spam’.
Facebook and Google have said they will ensure compliance. Facebook also says it wants to discuss some “issues which need more engagement”.
Twitter is yet to comment; it is caught in the “Congress toolkit” tweet controversy and finds itself on the radar of the government and Delhi Police for marking a BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s tweet as “manipulated media”.