Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023
In February 2021, the Government of India introduced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. These rules aimed to regulate digital media platforms and social media intermediaries, with a focus on curbing the spread of fake news, hate speech, and other harmful content. However, the rules faced criticism from many quarters, including industry experts and civil society activists, for being too broad and potentially violating users’ privacy and freedom of expression.
In response to these criticisms, the government recently introduced an amendment to the rules, titled the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. The amendment seeks to address some of the concerns raised by various stakeholders while retaining the core objectives of the original rules.
One of the major changes introduced by the amendment is the creation of a separate category for “significant social media intermediaries.” These intermediaries will be defined as social media platforms with over 50 lakh registered users in India. This new category is aimed at providing greater oversight of larger platforms, with specific requirements for data protection, grievance redressal, and content moderation.
The amendment also introduces a new system of self-regulation for digital news organizations. Such organizations will be required to form a self-regulatory body, which will be overseen by the government. The body will be responsible for ensuring that digital news content adheres to ethical standards and is not defamatory, inciteful, or violates privacy.
Another key change introduced by the amendment is the requirement for social media platforms to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, a nodal contact person, and a Resident Grievance Officer. These officials will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules, addressing user grievances, and coordinating with law enforcement agencies. The platforms will also be required to publish monthly compliance reports, detailing the number of complaints received and action taken.
The amendment also expands the scope of prohibited content, including material that threatens the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, and national security. The rules also require platforms to remove content flagged as misinformation or fake news within 24 hours.
While the amendment seeks to address some of the criticisms of the original rules, it has also faced some backlash from stakeholders. Critics have argued that the new rules could still be used to stifle dissent and curb free speech, as the government retains considerable powers to regulate digital media content.
In conclusion, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, represent a step forward in regulating digital media in India. The rules seek to provide greater oversight of social media platforms, while also ensuring that digital news content adheres to ethical standards. However, there is still a need for further dialogue and discussion with stakeholders to ensure that the rules strike the right balance between protecting users’ privacy and freedom of expression and ensuring accountability and transparency in digital media.