The Centre on Wednesday wrote to major social media platforms, asking them for the status of their compliance to its new digital rules “as soon as possible and preferably today”, ANI reported.
A sweeping set of rules were issued on February 25 to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content. The new rules will virtually bring these platforms, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations mandated that social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Signal and Facebook will now have to give details about the origin of a tweet or a message on being asked by either a court or a government authority. The regulation also requires social media companies to set up a three-tier grievance redressal framework.
The social media platforms were given a three-month deadline to comply with the rules. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked the companies to provide the name and contact information of a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer, and their physical addresses in India, apart from the compliance report.
The Centre added that it had the right to seek more information from the social media platforms as allowed under the new rules and the Information Technology Act.
Earlier on Wednesday, WhatsApp moved the Delhi High Court against the provision which requires that the company identify the “first originator of information” when authorities demand it. WhatsApp argued that the provision was unconstitutional and against people’s fundamental right to privacy.
Shortly after that, the Centre hit back at the messaging platform, calling its legal challenge “a clear act of defiance”.
“WhatsApp’s challenge, at the very last moment, and despite having sufficient time and opportunity available during consultation process and after the rules were enacted, to the Intermediary Guidelines is an unfortunate attempt to prevent the same from coming into effect,” the government stated.
The government claimed that it was committed to ensuring the right of privacy to all citizens but also had a responsibility to “maintain law and order and ensure national security.”
The Centre added that WhatsApp was required to reveal the origin of a particular message only for the “prevention, investigation, punishment of an offence relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for not less than five years”.
On Tuesday, reports had emerged that big technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were yet to comply with the new social media rules. Facebook and Google issued statements saying they were aiming to do that.