Social Media Giants Rejig Processes to Meet May 26 Deadline

Facebook announces it aims to comply with GoI’s new IT Rules, and is working to implement new operational processes

Social Media Giants Rejig Processes to Meet May 26 Deadline
Social Media Giants Rejig Processes to Meet May 26 Deadline
PTI - 25 May 2021

Social media giants are on notice, and they have started responding to Government of India's deadline for implementation of its new IT Rules. On Tuesday, Facebook said it is working to implement operational processes, and aims to comply with provisions of the IT Rules that come into effect from May 26.

The social media giant, however, said it continues to discuss a “few of the issues which need more engagement” with the government, adding it remains committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platform, the spokesperson added.

The comments assume significance as social media companies are facing the deadline of May 25 to comply with the new guidelines for digital platforms.

The new rules, announced in February, require large social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to follow additional due diligence, including appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

IT Ministry sources said appointment of a grievance officer would be a key requirement from day-one of rules coming into effect, given the importance of public interface for complaints, and need for an acknowledgement system for requests.

Non-compliance with rules would result in these social media companies losing their intermediary status that provides them exemptions from liabilities for any third-party information and data hosted by them.

According to sources, provisions around voluntary verification, 24-hour timeline to remove content flagged for nudity etc and setting up a process and time-bound grievance redress mechanism has been put in place, while meeting requirements like generation of monthly compliance reports and appointment of chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer is underway.

On February 25, the government had announced tighter regulations for social media firms, requiring them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a robust complaint redress mechanism with an officer being based in the country.

The government had set 50 lakh registered users as the threshold for defining ‘significant social media intermediary’, meaning that large players like Twitter, Facebook and Google would have to comply with additional norms.

Announcing the guidelines in February, it had said the new rules would take effect immediately, while significant social media providers (based on number of users) will get three months before they need to start complying. That three-month period meant compliance by May 25.

Last week, Koo had said it has complied with requirements of the new rules, and its privacy policy, terms of use, and community guidelines, now reflect the changes. Koo has close to 6 million (60 lakh) users, making it a major social media intermediary under the new guidelines.

Significant social media companies will also have to publish a monthly compliance report disclosing details of complaints received and action taken, as also details of contents removed proactively. They will also be required to have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app, or both.

As per data cited by the government, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 21 crore Instagram clients, while 1.75 crore account holders are on Twitter.

The new rules were introduced to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram — which have seen a phenomenal surge in usage over the past few years in India — more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platform.

Social media companies will have to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. Notably, the rules require significant social media intermediaries — providing services primarily in the nature of messaging — to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines sovereignty of India, security of state, or public order.

The intermediary, however, will not be required to disclose contents of any message. This could have major ramifications for players like Twitter and WhatsApp.

The rules also state that users who voluntarily want to verify their accounts should be given an appropriate mechanism to do so, and be accorded a visible mark of verification.

Users will have to be provided with prior intimation and explanation when a significant social media intermediary removes content on its own. In such cases, users have to be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.

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