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The Centre has sought three months time from the Supreme Court for finalising and notifying the new and revised intermediary rules concerning the responsibilities of online intermediaries when it comes to social media content, security and privacy of users and the traceability of online crimes.
The affidavit filed by the Centre states that the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 presently deals with the obligations of online intermediaries. These rules include provisions for due diligence to be observed by these platforms under Rule 3 of these Rules. This Rule also provides for redressal mechanism for individuals and users for the protection of their reputation and dignity.
However, the affidavit goes on to acknowledge the purported drawbacks of the use of social media. In this regard, it states,
“If on one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms.”
In light of the same, it was stated in the Rajya Sabha that the Government would initiate more steps to ensure that intermediaries are made more responsible. To this end, the draft Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 was published. Several responses to the same were received by the concerned authorities, the affidavit further submits. It also adds that the various rounds of consultation and discussions have also been held on the issue, involving various chambers of commerce, associations and social media companies apart from inter-ministerial consultations.
Given that the issue is a complex one, more rounds of inter-ministerial consultation are required, the Government has submitted. The affidavit informed that the updated draft of Intermediary rules is presently under discussion within Ministry. Thus, the State has requested that a further period of three months is required by the government to finalise and notify these rules.
The Supreme Court had earlier sought a timeframe within which the Centre would formulate guidelines. The Centre was also required to inform the Court of the existing steps in place to address the issues emanating from the use of social media. The Court had directed the same while dealing with a transfer petition filed by social media giant Facebook, calling on the Apex Court to hear all the matters relating to issues concerning traceability of online crimes and Aadhaar linkage to social media profiles.
The Supreme Court is due to take up the case tomorrow.
The Madras High Court has posted the matter to be taken up next on November 8. The High Court has been adjourning the case in the last few hearings, given that the Supreme Court is yet to take a call on whether it will transfer the matter or not. The main case pertains to a PIL kept pending to navigate ways in which online crime may be curbed with the assistance of social media companies.