The Central Government has recently issued Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics) Rules, 2021 in supersession of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 aiming to make social media entities and intermediaries more responsible and vigil while doing business in India. These Rules have increased the accountability and responsibility of the agencies and intermediaries providing these services and also make individuals, using such services, more responsible towards Indian society and regulator.

Rule 3 of the said Rules puts an obligation on all the intermediaries to follow the due diligence process in certain aspects as specified in the Rules while discharging his duties. Rule 3(J) cast further obligation on the intermediary that within maximum 72 hours of the receipt of an order from government agency, intermediary must provide necessary details and assistance to the said government agency. Rule 3(d) provides that if any such information is hosted and published, the concerned intermediary shall remove such content or make inactive within maximum 36 hours from the receipt of court order or from the time of being notified by concerned government agencies. The Rules further provide that the intermediary shall mandatorily appoint Grievance Officer and provide his details on its website.

Rule 4 of said Rules provides for additional due diligence to be observed by social media intermediary like appointment of Chief Compliance Officer within three months from the date of the notification of the Rules and a nodal contact person for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and appointment of Resident Grievance Officer.

Thus, the said Rules aim to regulate content, removal of inappropriate posts, sharing the backend information and/or taking corrective action in unwanted situation against the service provider. Service providers like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp etc and other intermediaries may be impacted by such Rules and the need to comply with them from the date of notification.

CS Vikash Kumar Jha

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