Draft rules to regulate social media ready: Government

Apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

The Centre on Friday informed the Madras High Court that deliberations on the Draft Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment)] Rules, 2018, which mandate social media companies to cooperate with the police in cracking cybercrimes, had been completed.

A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee was told by the Central government’s senior counsel Venkataswamy Babu that the process of notifying the rules was in an advanced stage. The rules were expected to solve problems faced by the police in obtaining information from social media firms.

Counsel supported the State’s stand that the High Court could continue to hear the present case, without transferring it to the Supreme Court. He also made it clear that the Centre was only concerned with cooperation between social media companies and the police and not with the linking of Aadhaar to users’ social media accounts.

After recording the submission, the judges, in a lighter vein, said they hoped the Central government would take the same stand before the Supreme Court, which was seized of a plea by Facebook to transfer the case.

Passing interim orders on August 20, the Supreme Court had restrained the High Court from passing any “effective order” in the case.

Additional Government Pleader E. Manoharan told the Division Bench that the State government had filed an application to get the Supreme Court’s interim order vacated and that it had been listed for hearing on September 24. Deciding to await the outcome of the government’s application, the Bench adjourned its hearing to October 1.

During the hearing, senior counsel M.S. Krishnan, representing Twitter, urged the court to replace ‘Twitter Inclusive’, which runs the operations in the United States alone, with ‘Twitter International Company’, which manages the business of the social media giant across the world but for the U.S., in the list of respondents to the case.

The judges accepted the request and ordered amendment of the cause title. Initially, advocate Antony Clement Rubin had approached the court to obtain an order for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts so that those who indulge in abuses and criminal activities could be identified easily and punished by the law enforcers.

However, the High Court made it clear at the threshold that it was not in favour of such a plea. Instead, it expanded the scope of the case and suo motu impleaded Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp as parties to the case so that they could be made to cooperate with the local police in cracking cyber crimes by sharing necessary information.

Even on Friday, the Bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan, told senior counsel N.L. Rajah, representing WhatsApp, that the social media giants were bound to obey local laws of the country in which they operate and share requisite information with the police. It said, the companies could not take umbrage under the right to privacy.

“Don’t forget that in this country, even fundamental rights are subject to reasonable restrictions. They are not absolute,” Justice Sathyanarayanan told Mr. Rajah.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 10:31:19 AM |

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