What are Guidelines for Intermediate Institutions and Digital Media Code of Conduct, Rule 2021

What is Guidelines for Intermediate Institutions and Digital Media Code of Conduct, Rule 2021

The reference

  • Till now almost all the major social media intermediaries have not complied with all the pre-requisite conditions.
  • Non-compliance with these conditions can only worsen the situation, especially in situations where relations between some platforms such as Twitter and the government are deteriorating.
  • While there are some positive aspects to the above guidelines, there are some obvious ambiguities and limitations which seem to contradict the core principles of democracy and constitutional values.

positive aspect

  • These rules make certain duties mandatory such as:
  • Removing non-consensual intimate photos within 24 hours,
  • Prevention to spread rumors
  • Publication of compliance report to increase transparency,
  • Setting up a dispute resolution mechanism to remove content
  • Adding a label to the information for users to know whether the content is advertised, owned, sponsored, or specifically controlled.

Challenges related to

  • Rights that are beyond the scope of the IT Act: It is a matter of concern that without legislative action Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 Digital news media has been brought under its purview.
  • It has been criticized for bringing in many such new rules, which should normally be brought only through legislative action.
  • Lack of proper mediation or dispute resolution mechanism: A social media platform will now have to remove content within 36 hours of receiving an order from the government.
  • There is no provision for arbitration of social media platforms appropriately if they disagree with the government’s order within a timeframe.
  • Issues related to freedom of expression: Under these rules, the final arbiter of online objectionable content is the government. Hence, this affects freedom of expression.
  • Traceability issue: So far, social media platforms have the right to provide end-to-end encryption to users, so that their information is not passed on to middlemen.
  • Enforcing this mandatory traceability requirement would take away this right of social media platforms, thereby reducing the privacy protections of these conversations.
  • Absence of data privacy law: The absence of a data privacy law can prove fatal in a country where citizens still do not have a data privacy law to protect themselves after any party breaches privacy.
  • Compliance burden: These rules create redundant additional operating costs due to the need for arbitrators to hire Indian Nodal Officers, Compliance Officers and Grievance Officers.
  • This may not be in favor of many smaller digital entities and may increase the likelihood of all kinds of interventions.

Road ahead

  • Uniform application of law: The application of the law will be the same for all. No platform will be an exception to this.
  • Apart from this, laws are already in place to deal with illegal content. There is a need for their uniform application.
  • Consultation with stakeholders: There are many problems with the new rules, but the major issue was that they were introduced without any public discussion. A better way to address this is to re-issue a white paper on this.
  • Statutory endorsement: Even after that, if its regulation is considered necessary, then it should be implemented through legislation. For this, instead of relying on the executive powers, it should be brought in the Parliament.
  • Strengthening Data Protection Legislation: Sharing more information with any platform can prove dangerous in a country where citizens still do not have data privacy laws to protect themselves if any party breaches privacy.





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