Following the uproar over the proposed amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Rules, the government on Monday said that the recommendations placed the interests of digital Indians first and sought to ensure the Constitutional rights of citizens are not contravened by “big tech platforms”.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) on Monday reposted the draft amendments on its website, inviting comments from stakeholders in the next 30 days. The move comes within a week of the draft being pulled off the website following a furore over the proposal that seeks to set up a new panel, whose members will be chosen by the Central government, with powers to overturn content moderation decisions taken by social media platforms.
While no significant changes have been made to the proposed draft, the Ministry has now added its detailed reasoning for the amendments.
Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar tweeted: “Putting Interests of Digital Nagriks [citizens] First. New amended IT (Intermediary) Rules are out for public consultation – more effective grievance addressal and ensuring constitutional rights of the citizens are respected.”
The note uploaded along with the draft amendments says the amended IT rules seek to provide additional avenues for grievance redressal, apart from the courts, and “also ensure that the Constitutional rights of Indian citizens are not contravened by any Big-tech Platform by ensuring new accountability standards for SSMIs [significant social media intermediaries]”.
It also highlighted that this will not impact early stage or growth stage Indian companies or startups.
“The goals of these rules are to ensure an Open, Safe & Trusted and Accountable Internet for all Indian Internet Users and Digital Nagriks,” the government said, adding that the existing rules have succeeded in creating a new sense of accountability amongst intermediaries to their users, especially within Big Tech platforms.
However, as the digital ecosystem and connected Internet users in India expand, so do the challenges and problems faced by them, as well as some of the infirmities and gaps that exist in the current rule vis-a-vis Big Tech platforms, it said. “Therefore, new amendments have been proposed to the IT Rules 2021, to address these challenges and gaps…A formal public consultation meeting will be arranged by Mid-June, and the details will be notified soon,” it added.
The broad principles that underpin these amended rules, it said, include that all online intermediaries providing services in India shall never contravene the Indian Constitution, Laws and Rules; follow them in letter and spirit; and “unlawful and harmful information violative of their own terms and conditions shall be quickly removed when reported by users, while also providing the users a reasonable opportunity to respond in case of significant social media platforms”.
It further added that while the IT Rules, 2021, provide for a robust grievance redressal mechanism, there have been many instances in which the grievance officers of intermediaries either did not address the grievances satisfactorily and/or fairly. “In such a scenario, the need for an appellate forum has been proposed to protect the rights and interests of users,” the MeitY said.