New IT rules to put more obligations on social media platforms to act against unlawful content, misinformation: Minister

NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Saturday said the latest amendment of IT rules will put more obligations on social media companies to make sure no unlawful content or misinformation is posted on the platforms.
The government had on Friday notified rules under which it will set up appellate panels to redress grievances that users may have against decisions of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook on hosting contentious content. Talking about forming three-member Guidance Appellate Committees (GACs), Chandrasekhar said the government is aware of lakhs of messages from citizens where social media firms did not respond to grievances despite complaints. “That is not acceptable,” he said. He further said the government wants social media companies to work as partners to ensure the interests of ‘digital nagriks’ are met.
“The obligations of intermediaries earlier was limited to notifying users of rules but now there will be much more definite obligations on platforms. Intermediaries have to make efforts that no unlawful content posted on platform,” he said.
The minister said community guidelines of platforms, whether they are headquartered in US or Europe, cannot contradict the constitutional rights of Indians when such platforms operate in India.
He said platforms will have an obligation to remove within 72 hours of flagging, any “misinformation” or illegal content or content that promotes enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence.
Chandrasekhar said that he personally is of the view that 72 hours was too much, and advocated that while the rules lay down such timelines, platforms must act on unlawful content immediately and urgently.
“We will start with 1-2 GACs…The government is not interested in playing the role of the Ombudsman. It is a responsibility we are taking reluctantly because the grievance mechanism is not functioning properly,” the minister said.
The idea is not to target any company or intermediary or make things difficult for them. The government sees internet and online safety as a shared responsibility of all, he noted.
On whether penalties will be imposed on those not complying, he said the government would not like to bring punitive actions at this stage but warned that if the situation demands in the future, it will be considered. 
(With inputs from agencies)

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