The new Goods and Services Tax Bill will hold social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, among others, responsible for the content they put out, the Internet and Mobile Association of India said on Tuesday. "The new GST Bill clubs all intermediaries as 'agents' who 'carries on the business of supply or receipt of goods and/or services on behalf of another' and clubs these entities together with commission agents, brokers, etc," a statement released by the Association said.
Websites that host reviews, such as Zomato, and online marketplaces will also fall under the purview of the the new Bill. Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, currently protects companies from being liable for information, data or links provided by third party on their sites, though the law leaves room for special cases. However, the new law will deal with such content in a more stringent way.
The Bill states that "a person who carries on the business of supply or receipt of goods and/or services on behalf of another, whether disclosed or not and includes a factor, broker, commission agent, arhatia, del credere agent, intermediary or an auctioneer or any other mercantile agent". In layperson's terms, the country's legal system will now look at these websites as agents acting on behalf of users, and they will thus be responsible for all the content that is uploaded by them on the internet.
The Association said that with the new Act, "doing business in India just got complicated for Internet Service providers". "The provisions for intermediaries in the New GST Bill are in clear contradiction with the provisions for 'digital intermediaries' as recognised by the IT Act, 2000," it said on Tuesday. "If the internet economy is really expected to gain momentum in India, the government needs to address this inconsistency by reinstating the 'digital intermediary' and 'safe-harbour' provisions for the sector," the statement read.