Govt working on law to hold social media platforms accountable

Messaging giant WhatsApp has, in the past, drawn flak from the government on the issue of message traceability. Representational image only. Photo: iStock.

Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram messaging apps like WhatsApp among others may soon be mandated to install traceability of information origin and remove malicious content within 24 hours of notice.

Minister of state for electronics and IT Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the proposed norms include the deployment of technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content.

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The move follows comments received by the government after it sought public feedback last December seeking amendments to IT Rules for social media platforms and messaging apps in a bid to curb misuse of such platforms for spreading fake news.

“MeitY received 171 comments and 80 counter comments from individual, civil society, industry associations and organisations. The comments so received have been analysed and the rules are being finalised,” Dhotre said.

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He noted that social media platforms are intermediaries as defined in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, and that they have to follow certain due diligence as prescribed in the IT Rules.

Dhotre said the key features of proposed amendments in the due diligence to be followed by intermediaries include periodically informing the users for compliance of rules and regulations as well as users agreement and privacy policy.

The proposal also suggests that social media platforms will have to bring in traceability of the originator of the information, and remove malicious content in 24 hours upon receiving a court order or when notified by appropriate government authorities, he added.

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Messaging giant WhatsApp has, in the past, drawn flak from the government on the issue of message traceability. The government has been asking the Facebook-owned company to find ways to identify originators of rogue messages but the US-based firm has resisted the demand citing privacy concerns.

Significant intermediaries with over 50 lakh users will have to set up an office in India and appoint a nodal officer for liaisoning with law enforcement agencies, according to the proposed changes.

Such platforms will also have to deploy technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content, Dhotre said.