Social media companies may get just 36 hours to junk ‘unlawful’ posts


2021-02-18 23:11:50

NEW DELHI: Social media companies may soon be required to take down ‘unlawful’ content in 36 hours, against the 72 hours stipulated now, on the request of government or court orders while also being mandated to be more responsive to citizens/user requests regarding handling of their personal data, according to changes in the IT rules that governs the operations of intermediaries such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Google.
The new rules may mandate a company with over 50 lakh users need to have an office in India and also appoint a nodal officer for liaising with law-enforcement agencies.
According to the proposed amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, that are notified under Section 79 of the IT Act, the government wants the social media companies to be more responsive in handling requests regarding the removal of unlawful content.
The amendments, which would come into force as soon as they are notified, would make it contingent upon IT intermediaries to remove malicious content within 36 hours of receiving a court order, or when notified by the government, top sources told TOI.
Sources said the new rules would supersede the 2011 rules, and would put an obligation on intermediaries to periodically inform their users for compliance of rules and regulations, and also for following users’ agreement and privacy policy. Also, the amended rules would seek deployment of technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content.
Sources said that the government may touch upon the contentious issue of asking companies to identify the source of unlawful content so that action can be taken against offenders. Currently, companies such as WhatsApp have steadfastly refused to provide any such information, saying all communication on the platform is end-to-end encrypted and thus they cannot identify the origins of unlawful content.
Legal consultants said that the provision of 36 hours for removal of unlawful content is in line with international practices and rules prevalent in many western countries. The guidelines for intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act are being amended at a time when there are concerns within the government about the carriage of unlawful content on social media platforms.



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