IT rules for social media content: Centre extends deadline for feedback

The Ministry has extended the deadline for public feedback on the amendment in question to February 20, 2023, in response to input received from stakeholders. The previous deadline was January 25

Deadline for feedback on IT rules for social media content extended
The proposed amendments to IT Rules would require social media platforms to remove information identified as "fake" by the Press Information Bureau's Fact Checking Unit I Photo: Creative Commons

Letters from leading media organizations, such as the Press Association and the Editors Guild of India, calling on the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw, to remove the amendments to IT Rules that would require social media platforms to remove information identified as “fake” by the Press Information Bureau’s Fact Checking Unit, have not gone unnoticed.

Following the backlash, the Ministry has extended the deadline for public comment on the debated draft amendment to the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that deals with the responsibility of intermediaries.

Also Read: Amendment to IT rules could make it convenient to muzzle the press: DigiPub

In consideration of feedback received from various parties, the Ministry has decided to extend the deadline for submitting comments on the amendment until February 20, 2023. The original deadline was January 25th.

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It’s worth noting that the deadline for feedback on the draft amendment regarding online gaming has not been extended and remains the same. This amendment has been met with significant opposition, with calls for further discussions with press bodies, media organizations, and other parties to create a regulatory framework for digital media that does not threaten press freedom.

“This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press, and will give sweeping powers to the PIB, or any ‘other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking’, to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic,” the editors guild had mentioned in a letter yesterday, according to NDTV.

Also Read: How amendments to IT Rules add more layers of social media censorship

The Editors Guild of India emphasized that even without proper procedures, the amendment itself is illegal as the PIB has no legal authority to act as a regulator of the press in any way. The Press Association, which represents government accredited journalists, also expressed similar concerns in a statement about a government entity having the power to define what constitutes ‘fake news’.”

“The Press Council is already deciding on many complaints on fake news… Bestowing this power to determine and take action on fake news by a purely government body like the Press Information Bureau will dilute and diminish the power, independence of the Council which has been functioning smoothly since 1966,” the Press Association had stated.

Also Read: New IT rules to put greater obligations on social media platforms: IT minister

DigiPub, an organization representing digital media companies, has called for the removal of the amendment to the IT Rules.

In a democracy, the government is not the only party invested in its well-being. The media (electronic, print, and digital), information activists, and civil society also play a vital role in protecting the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression. Therefore, the government should not have the power to determine what information is true or false, the association stated.

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