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Twitter, Facebook, Other Social Media Companies Will Have To Abide By Local Laws: Minister

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New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) The new amendments to IT rules impose a legal obligation on social media companies to take all out efforts to prevent barred content and misinformation, the government said on Saturday making it clear that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook operating in India will have to abide by local laws and constitutional rights of Indian users.

The new rules provide for setting up appellate committees which can overrule decisions of the big tech firms on takedown or blocking requests. The hardening of stance against the big tech companies comes at a time when discontent has been brewing over alleged arbitrary acts of social media platforms on flagged content, or not responding fast enough to grievances.

Amid concerns over the rising clout of Big Tech globally, the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc, Elon Musk, on Friday completed his USD 44-billion takeover of Twitter, placing the world’s richest man at the helm of one of the most influential social media apps in the world. Incidentally, the microblogging platform has had multiple run-ins with the government in the past.

India’s tweaking of IT rules allow formation of Centre-appointed panels, that will settle often-ignored user grievances against content decision of social media companies, Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, adding that this was necessitated due to the “casual” and “tokenism” approach of digital platforms towards user complaints so far. “That is not acceptable,” Chandrasekhar said at a media briefing explaining the amended rules. The minister said that lakhs of messages around unresolved user complaints reflected the “broken” grievance redressal mechanism currently being offered by platforms, and added that while it will partner with social media companies towards common goal of ensuring Internet remains open, safe and trusted for Indians, the government will not hesitate to act, crackdown, where public interest is compromised. On whether penalties will be imposed on platforms for not complying, he said the government would not like to bring punitive action at this stage but warned that if the situation demands in future, that could be considered too. The internet is evolving, as will the laws.

“We are not getting to the business of punity, but there is an opinion that there should be punitive penalties for those platforms not following rules…it is an area we have steered clear of, but that is not to say it is not on our mind,” he cautioned. The tighter IT norms raises due diligence and accountability of platforms to fight illegal content proactively (government has added deliberate misinformation to that list too), with 72-hour window to take down flagged content. So far, intermediaries were only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful or unlawful content. “The obligations of intermediaries earlier was limited to notifying users of the rules but now there will be much more definite obligation on platforms. Intermediaries have to make efforts that no unlawful content is posted on platform,” the minister said. These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content, an official release said.


Story first published: Sunday, October 30, 2022, 8:04 [IST]

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