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Centre’s new rules for digital media face a legal test

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  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    15th Jul, 2021


Several lawsuits have challenged the constitutional validity of the government’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, better known as the Digital Media Ethics Rules 2021.

About the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

  • The rules were notified on February 25, 2021.
  • These rules seek to regulate social media intermediaries such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, as also digital media, including OTT and digital news platforms.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) will execute the guidelines for social media intermediaries, and the information and broadcasting ministry will oversee the code of ethics for digital media.
  • These rules are intended to create a level playing field for print, television, and digital media.
  • They also create a regulatory framework for digital media.
  • Per the rules, all intermediaries and digital media platforms must set up a three-tier grievance redress mechanism and submit monthly compliance reports.
  • Complaints must be acknowledged in 24 hours and disposed of in 15 days.
  • The l&B secretary is authorized to block or take down content in the interim.

Objections to the rules

  • Facebook-owned WhatsApp opposes the rule to identify the "first originator" of an "offensive" message, as it would mean breach end-to-end encryption of messages, which cannot be done for India alone.
  • Twitter objected to criminal liabilities. Under the rules, compliance officers can face criminal action for content posted on their platforms.
  • Digital news media opposes the regulations on grounds of not being consulted.
  • OTT platforms have complied, they argue that the industry should have the freedom to decide on the composition and working of the self-regulatory mechanism.