India rejects UN criticism of new IT rules
India has dismissed criticism of its new IT rules relating to social media by three UN special rapporteurs on rights issues, saying the country's democratic credentials are well recognised and the right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under its Constitution.
- The concerns alleging potential implications for freedom of expression that the new IT Rules will entail are highly misplaced, India's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva said in a strongly worded response, asserting that the rules are "designed to empower ordinary users" of social media.
- The enactment of these rules had become necessary following widespread concerns about increasing instances of abuse of social media and digital platforms.
- The Upper House of Parliament had repeatedly asked the government to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms accountable under the Indian laws and the rules were framed after extensive deliberations.
- Also, the Supreme Court of India in two judgements had directed it to frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography and related contents in online platforms and also said that it was imperative to frame proper regime to find out the persons, institutions, and bodies who were the originators of such content messages.
- The concern that the India's IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 may be misused deliberately to make a large number of complaints so as to overwhelm the grievance redressal mechanisms created by social media platforms is also misplaced, exaggerated and disingenuous and shows lack of willingness to address the grievances of the users of these media platforms while using their data to earn revenues, the Indian mission said in its response.
- The Rapporteurs said the rules in their current form do not conform with international human rights norms and pressed for a detailed review.
- Under the new rules, social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are required to appoint nodal officers and create mechanisms to remove offending posts and messages.
- Under the new rules, the social media companies are required to appoint India-based grievance redressal officers, compliance officers and nodal officers to address complaints of the users.
- The rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving and resolving complaints from the users or victims.
- Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers.