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Why has the government proposed changes to the IT Rules 2021?

by Shailee Mishra

Date & Time: Jun 08, 2022 10:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute


• Draught amendments has been published to the Information Technology Rules 2021
• Draught amendment is open for public comment and feedback for the next 30 days

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has published draught amendments to the Information Technology Rules 2021, claiming that they will ensure that Big Tech platforms do not violate 
Indian citizens' constitutional rights.

The ministry informed users that the draught amendment is open for public comment and feedback from all stakeholders for the next 30 days. By mid-June, it will also hold a formal public consultation meeting.

What are the IT Regulations for 2021?

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics) Rules, which went into effect in February 2021, added new compliance requirements for significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs), such as the appointment of a chief compliance officer, a point of contact for coordination, and a grievance officer. It also required SSMIs to identify the first source of information on its platform. SSMIs are platforms that have more than 5 million subscribers.

The IT Rules also included a three-tier system for handling complaints about streaming services and online news. Grievances are handled within the organisation at the first level, a self-regulatory body at the second, and a government-run committee at the third, which can overturn any decision made by the other two bodies.

What happened before that?

Since the IT Rules 2021 went into effect in May 2021, various social media platforms have clashed with the Union government over compliance with the IT Rules 2021. A few petitions have also been filed in court to challenge the rules.

Although intermediaries eventually complied with the rules, the Union government had reservations about how they were being followed. When the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) announced the draught, it stated that the amendments will ensure "actual enforcement of requirements in IT Rules 2021 in letter and spirit."

What are the proposed changes?

The MeitY has included a new clause in the draught amendment to the IT Rules 2021 that requires intermediaries to respect "rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution of India."

Second, it establishes a new Grievance Appellate Committee, which, according to the MeitY, will provide an additional mechanism for appealing decisions made by grievance officers or intermediaries.

This committee will also have the authority to overturn any decision made by grievance officers or intermediaries, such as blocking or removing any user or user account from social media platforms.

Finally, it has proposed a change in the grievance redressal mechanism, requiring intermediaries to address grievances about content removal from platforms within 72 hours. The existing 15-day timeframe for other grievances will be maintained.

Who will be affected?

This will have a significant impact on Meta's Facebook and Instagram, as well as Google's YouTube, Twitter, Telegram, and other major social media intermediaries.

Why now?

MeitY stated in its reasoning for the amendments that "a number of intermediaries have acted in violation of Indian citizens' constitutional rights." It also stated that there were numerous instances where intermediaries failed to address complaints "satisfactorily and/or fairly."

It is worth noting that the Union government has been opposed to the removal of user accounts from social media platforms. In fact, when Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey recently backed Elon 
Musk's plan to reinstate former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account, MeitY Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said deplatforming violated citizens' fundamental rights.

"Deplatforming is a big deal – it's a violation of users' fundamental rights n must have the force of law behind it for any platform to exercise n must never be done arbitrarily." "@elonmusk @jack," he had tweeted. 

The proposed Grievance Appellate Committee may address these concerns.


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