Google and Facebook have expressed their readiness to comply with the new intermediary rules. Government of India had notified the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 on 25th February, 2021 and gave the deadline till 25th May, 2021.
Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform. It owns WhatsApp and Instagram as well. It’s spokesperson told ET:
“They’re aiming to comply with the new rules, but there are certain issues which need more engagement with the government.” It further said, “Pursuant to the IT rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. Facebook remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform.”
For instance, to increase transparency, companies publish compliance report on a quarterly or half-yearly basis but the new rules made it mandatory for companies to file their reports on a monthly basis. According to Facebook representatives, changes like these are already underway, but not finalized yet.
Google is world’s largest search engine. A company representative told ET:
“It respects India’s legislative process and had a long history of responding to government request to take down content when it violates the local law. We have consistently invested significant product changes, resources, and personnel to ensure that we’re combating illegal content in an effective and fair way.”
What’s there to lose if they do not comply with revised IT rules?
These internet giants have got a lot to lose if they do not comply with the revised IT rules. Social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Twitter run the risk of losing their intermediary status and protection under section 79 of the Information technology Act, 2000. It says ‘intermediary shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him.‘
Extension to comply with new IT rules
In order to persuade the government to reconsider some provisions and seek an extension of the deadline for compliance, many internet majors have turned to industry associations for intervention. These include FICCI, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and US-India business Council. They’re representing these companies. However there is no news yet from the Government of India. It is yet to take a call on whether to grant an extension to social media platforms or not.
Recently WhatsApp has challenged the new intermediary rules in the Delhi High court. It contends that the rules violate privacy of the users. The new rules mandate that intermediaries must disclose the details of the first originator of a message. However, any intermediary would be required to do so only as per an order passed by a competent court or as per an order under Section 69 of the IT Act.