Big Tech Companies Cannot Contradict Indians’ Constitutional Rights, New IT Rules To Put Greater Obligations: IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Big Tech Companies Cannot Contradict Indians' Constitutional Rights, New IT Rules To Put Greater Obligations: IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar

New Delhi: Union IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Saturday said that the latest amendment of Information Technology rules aims to ensure that no unlawful content or misinformation is posted on social media platforms. The norms will make social media companies fulfill obligations in ensuring the same.

“The obligations of intermediaries earlier was limited to notifying users of rules but now there will be much more definite obligations on platforms. Intermediaries have to make efforts that no unlawful content is posted on platform,” he said, as quoted by news agency PTI.

The statement comes as the Union government on Friday notified IT rules under which it will set up appellate panels to redress grievances that users may have against decisions of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook on hosting contentious content.

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The IT minister said that the formation of three-member Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs) was necessitated as the government is aware of lakhs of messages from citizens where grievances were not responded to by social media firms despite complaints.

“That is not acceptable,” Chandrasekhar said at a briefing, PTI reported

Chandrasekhar stressed that the Centre wants social media companies to work as partners in ensuring the interests of ‘digital nagriks’.

He also delivered a strong message to Big Tech companies saying that community guidelines of platforms, whether they are headquartered in the US or Europe, cannot contradict Indians’ constitutional rights when these platforms operate in India.

“The constitutional rights of India’s citizens should be respected by intermediaries, especially articles relating to free speech, liberty, and non-discrimination. In order to strengthen accountability between user and intermediary we’ve brought a grievance appellate platform,” he said, as quoted by news agency ANI.

The IT Minister stated that platforms will have obligation to remove within 72 hours of flagging, any “misinformation” or illegal content or content that promotes enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence.

He said he is personally of the view that 72 hours was too much, and he pressed for platforms to act on unlawful content immediately and urgently, while the rules lay down longer timelines.

“We will start with 1-2 GACs…Government is not interested in playing the role of ombudsman. It is a responsibility we are taking reluctantly because the grievance mechanism is not functioning properly,” the minister said.

He noted that the government sees the internet and online safety as a shared responsibility of all, asserting that the idea behind the amendments is not to target any company or intermediary or make things difficult for them.

On whether the Centre will consider imposing penalties on those not complying, he said the government does not want to bring punitive actions at this stage but cautioned that it will be considered if the situation demands in the future.

(With Agency Inputs)

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