The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Monday once again notified draft amendments to the new Information Technology rules introduced last year.
On June 2, the ministry had removed the draft notification from its website seeking comments from stakeholders. In the notification, the government had proposed to set up a new grievance appellate committee that will have the power to reverse the content moderation decisions of social media companies.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified on February 25 last year and came into force three months later.
The rules aim to regulate intermediaries – which include social media websites such as Facebook, its messenger service app WhatsApp, microblogging platform Twitter, internet service providers and online marketplaces – as well as digital media publishers, which include news websites and streaming services such as Netflix.
Through the proposed amendments, the government sought to set up a complaints panel besides the in-house grievance redressal officer whom social media firms are already mandated to employ under the new IT rules.
The amended rules also require social media companies to address a complaint seeking removal of posts within 72 hours in order to ensure that “problematic content is removed expeditiously, and does not become viral over a sustained period of time”.
After putting up the notification again on Monday, the ministry said that the amendments are aimed at filling gaps in regulations pertaining to large technology companies and to ensure that the firms do not violate the constitutional rights of citizens.
The ministry said that the amended rules seek to provide “additional avenues for grievance redressal apart from courts and also ensure that the constitutional rights of Indian citizens are not contravened by any Big Tech platform”.
The ministry also sought public comments on the draft amendments within the next 30 days.
Several media outlets have challenged the rules in courts, arguing that the guidelines will allow the government to directly control their content. Several High Courts in the country have either put the rules on hold or struck down multiple parts of it.
Last year, tensions flared up between the Centre and Twitter after the social media firm refused to fully follow an order to remove hundreds of accounts accused of spreading misinformation about the farmers’ agitation. The social network eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time.