Govt to seek public consultation on draft IT rules to track unlawful content, before 15 Jan 2019

The IT ministry is seeking feedback from the public on the draft amendments by 15 January before taking a final decision.

After it emerged that the government was discussing plans to amend Section 79 of the IT Act on 24 December, a new report is now out which states that public consultation would be sought for the same.

The government will seek public comments on the proposed amendment to the Information Technology Act (IT Act) which would make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter to trace the origins of any 'unlawful' content. The said platforms must also take down the said 'unlawful' content within 24 hours of being notified about it.

The IT ministry is seeking feedback from the public on the draft amendments by 15 January before taking a final decision.

Representational image.

Representational image.

The major suggestions for "The Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018" include: providing information sought by any govt agency within 72 hours; ensuring originator of information is traceable; taking down content or disabling access to unlawful acts within 24 hours of being notified; having tools to identify and disable access to unlawful content and finally to report cybersecurity-related incidents to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).

The intermediaries are also expected to store such information for 180 days (up from 90 days) for investigative purposes.

"The intermediary (social media platform) shall deploy technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content," said the draft that has been placed on IT ministry's website on Monday.

Another change proposed is that the platforms would have to inform its users to refrain from hosting, uploading or sharing any content that is blasphemous, obscene, defamatory, "hateful or racially, ethnically objectionable".

Another proposed amendment is that platforms or intermediaries with over 50 lakh users in the country will be required to have a permanent registered office in India with a physical address. Besides, these platforms will have to appoint a nodal officer in India for round-the-clock coordination with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the rules, the draft said.

According to a report in The Hindu, the government has cited the mob lynchings which were caused due to the spread of fake news on WhatsApp and other social media sites as presenting new challenges to law enforcement agencies. In addition to this, social media is also instrumental in the recruitment of terrorists, the circulation of obscene content and spread of hate to create disharmony according to the government. Besides, the effort is to tackle spreading of fake messages on social media ahead of the general elections in 2019.

Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad has said in the parliament that the government is committed to strengthening the legal framework and making social media platforms accountable under the law.


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