United States: Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines And Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022

Gunnar Larson g at xny.io
Wed Nov 23 20:37:39 PST 2022


With the aim of making the social media intermediaries accountable to
ensure a secure, credible and dependable internet, and to make certain that
the constitutional rights of the Indian citizens are not contravened by the
big-tech platforms, the Central Government of India recently notified the
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics
Code) Amendment Rules, 2022.

The amended Rules make it mandatory for the intermediaries i.e., the social
media platforms, such as Twitter, Meta, Instagram, YouTube, etc. to comply
with the law of the land.

The revised Rules specify that the intermediary is required to publish its
rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement on its
website/mobile-based application or both and ensure compliance with the
same. Any change in rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement
is also to be intimated to the users periodically and at least once a year.
Further, reasonable efforts shall be made by the intermediary to not host,
display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any
information that:

   1. belongs to another person over which the user does not have any right;
   2. is obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another's privacy,
   insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, racially or ethnically
   objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or
   promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or
   caste with the intent to incite violence;
   3. is harmful to children;
   4. infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary
   5. deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or
   intentionally communicates any misinformation or information which is
   patently false and untrue or misleading in nature;
   6. impersonates another person;
   7. threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of
   India, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or causes
   incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence, or prevents
   investigation of any offence, or is insulting other nation;
   8. contains a software virus or any other computer code, file or program
   designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer
   9. violates any law for the time being in force.

The amended Rules also provide for the constitution of the Grievance
Appellate Committees, before which any person aggrieved by the decision of
the Grievance Office of the social media companies may prefer an appeal.
Each Grievance Appellate Committee shall consist of a chairperson and two
whole-time members appointed by the Central Government, of which one shall
be a member *ex-officio * and two shall be independent members.

Any complaint before the Grievance Appellate Committee is to be
acknowledged and resolved expeditiously and, in a time-bound manner. The
Committee shall adopt an online dispute resolution mechanism wherein the
entire appeal process, from the filing of the appeal to the decision
thereof, shall be conducted through digital mode.

While the Union ministers have hailed the present amendment to IT Rules as
one which empowers the users, the move has been condemned by the public
policy and advocacy groups who believe that the constitution of Grievance
Appellate Committees would essentially hinder online free speech. The
appointment of members of the Committees by the central government would
also lead to a reasonable apprehension of bias.

The advocacy group, Internet Freedom Foundation, in one of its tweets
stated, “*This will incentivise platforms to remove/suppress any speech
unpalatable to the government or those exerting political pressure and
increase government control and power since the government will be
effectively able to also decide what content must be displayed by platforms*

Some apprehensions have also been raised towards adequately staffing these

To conclude, regulating online content has been a bone of contention
between the government and the social media giants. However, once the
Grievance Appellate Committees are set up, it would become obligatory for
the social media companies to follow the instructions of the
government-appointed members, shifting the power to the state.



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