On June 6, 2022, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released the draft amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) for public feedback. The IT Rules were notified on February 25, 2021, under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). The Ministry noted that there is a need to amend the Rules to keep up with the challenges and gaps emerging in an expanding digital ecosystem. In this blog post, we give a brief background to the IT Rules, 2021 and explain the key proposed changes to the Rules.
Background to the IT Rules, 2021
Key changes proposed to the IT Rules 2021
Key changes proposed by the draft amendments are as follows:
- The proposed amendments also add that intermediaries should take all reasonable measures to ensure accessibility of their services to all users, with a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy, and transparency. Further, intermediaries should respect the constitutional rights of all users. The Ministry observed that such a change was necessary as several intermediaries have acted in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens.
- Appeal mechanism against decisions of grievance officers: The 2021 Rules require intermediaries to designate a grievance officer to address complaints regarding violations of the Rules. The Ministry observed that there have been instances where these officers do not address the grievances satisfactorily or fairly. A person aggrieved with the decision of the grievance officer needs to approach courts to seek redressal. Hence, the draft amendments propose an alternative mechanism for such appeals. A Grievance Appellate Committee will be formed by the central government to hear appeals against the decisions of grievance officers. The Committee will consist of a chairperson and other members appointed by the central government through a notification. The Committee is required to dispose of such appeals within 30 days from the date of receipt. The concerned intermediary must comply with the order passed by the Committee. Note that the proposed amendments do not restrict users from directly approaching courts.
- Expeditious removal of prohibited content: The 2021 Rules require intermediaries to acknowledge complaints regarding violation of Rules within 24 hours, and dispose of complaints within 15 days. The proposed amendments add that the complaints concerning the removal of prohibited content must be addressed within 72 hours. The Ministry observed that given the potential for virality of content over internet, a stricter timeline will help in removing prohibited content expeditiously.
Comments on the draft amendments are invited until July 6, 2022.