NEW DELHI: With the Centre-set deadline for the social media platforms to comply with its new rules ending on Tuesday, the digital and legal worlds were rife with speculations over the consequences of non-compliance. When contacted, Facebook said it would engage more with the Centre before eventually complying, while Twitter declined comment.
“We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” said a Facebook spokesperson in response to an e-mail by this paper.
Koo, touted as India’s answer to Twitter, said it has identified ‘colleagues from within the team’ to familiarise them with the ‘systems’. It said user safety and convenience was of ‘utmost importance’ to have Indian social media players ‘thriving in the country’. The Centre had notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 in February. The social media intermediaries were given an additional window of three months to put the new rules in place.
The government had said there would be two kinds of intermediaries — social media intermediaries, and significant social media intermediaries. The significant social media intermediaries are expected to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for coordination with law enforcement agencies, and a resident grievance officer. All three are expected to be Indian residents. Intermediaries with more than 50 lakh registered users have been designated as ‘significant social media intermediaries’.
Medianama founder and digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa said, “The new provisions entail setting up of an entire system which may not be practical to implement at a notice of three months for global companies. This is also particularly dependent on the scale of the companies, and the number of consumers they have. Some of the provisions show a lack of understanding in how technology works. WhatsApp cannot be expected to rearchitect its global platform in three months.”
Cyber law expert Pavan Duggal pointed out that non-compliance of the rules can lead to two legal consequences — intermediaries may lose their statutory exemption from legal liability under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the intermediaries and their top management are liable to be punished for various offences under the IT Act, 2000 and the IPC.”
The Internet Freedom Foundation, an NGO that conducts advocacy on digital rights and liberties, said in a post that the most detrimental bit for citizens was the rule under which significant scial media intermediaries that are primarily in the nature of messaging services have to enable the traceability of the originator of messages. This can cause a ‘chilling effect on speech in private conversations’, it said.