Facebook said on Tuesday (May 25) that it is “aiming to comply” with the government’s new rules intended to regulate online content, hours before the expiry of a three-month deadline to do so. “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The social media giant said it is working to “implement operational processes and improve efficiencies”. “Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform,” the statement said. Other than the main platform, the company also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
If the companies fail to comply with the new rules, they could lose protection accorded to them under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, which gives social media intermediaries immunity from legal prosecution for content posted on their platforms.
The rules were notified on February 25, and impose several restrictions on social media intermediaries such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and others. The rules also call for the players to enable tracing of the ‘original’ creator of a message or a tweet as maybe be directed or needed by the relevant authorities.
For end-to-end encrypted platforms such as WhatsApp, such rules could pose a big challenge. It is not clear how WhatsApp or Facebook, its parent company, plan to comply with these.
The rules for social media intermediaries with over 50 lakh users require them to have a clear mechanism for addressing user complaints and problems. The rules call for companies to appoint a chief compliance officer, who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the act and rules, a 24×7 nodal contact person for coordination with law enforcement agencies and a resident grievance officer, who will perform the functions mentioned under grievance redressal mechanism. All these officers need to be residents of India.
The rules also state that social media companies will need to publish a monthly compliance report on how they handle these user complaints.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), Rules 2021: Digital rights experts said it would “fundamentally” change the Indian internet. The rules drafted without much consultation were criticized for being back door to implement “political censorship” of content. Activists said that its implementation would lead to stricter manner of content takedown. Governments could direct social media companies to take down content within 36 hours, a failure to do so would lead to criminal prosecution.
Advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation had said the new rules will not fix the issues but only cause “further harm”.