With the new guidelines for intermediaries that came into force on Wednesday, social media firms now run the danger of facing elevated litigation from different parties, especially users’ and social activist groups on any content which is perceived as offensive.
Majority of the players have not met compliance with the new guidelines so far and additional delays can make their senior management vulnerable to facing criminal charges in instances of alleged violation of guidelines. An imprisonment of up to seven years as portion of penal provisions can’t be ruled out.
This is due to the fact non-compliance with the guidelines would outcome in these social media organizations losing their intermediary status, which delivers them exemptions and specific immunity from liabilities for any third-party content and information hosted by them. Once this occurs, they could be liable for criminal action, in case of complaints. The earlier version of the Information Technology law did not have provision for criminal liability.
Microblogging internet site, Twitter which has been directed by the government to take away the tag “Manipulated Media” from tweets by BJP leaders in an alleged Congress toolkit matter, referred to such fears in its statement on Thursday. “Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve…We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global terms of service, as well as with core elements of the new IT rules,” it stated.
Rule 7 which offers with the non-observance of the guidelines states, “Where an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code”.
“Social media firms should be proactive in complying with the new intermediary rules as the provision for criminal liability, which is a new feature in the law can have serious consequences for them,” cyber law professional Pawan Duggal stated. He stated that mere difficult the law in the court as WhatsApp has completed, will not be of use unless the court stays the law.
Official sources stated that the government might not be vindictive and the social media firms can constantly engage with it, but the laws empower person customers and users’ group also to lodge complaints and file instances and in such instances the government might not be capable to do significantly.
Though some social media firms like Facebook and Google have stated that they aim to comply with the new laws, have currently met some and are engaging with the government on other elements, lawyers stated that such partial compliance does not assure the immunity supplied otherwise below Section 79.
The new intermediary guidelines, which had been notified on February 25, are aimed at regulating all social media intermediaries like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, and so on, as as effectively as more than-the-top rated platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and stand-alone digital media outlets. While the recommendations relating to intermediaries was currently in force from earlier occasions, by way of the new guidelines the government has tightened some clauses such as lowering the time supplied to the platforms to take away what is deemed by it as unlawful content below Section 69A of the IT Act. Such content now demands to be removed inside 36 hours of getting flagged against 72 hours earlier.
Further, these platforms would now have to appoint grievance redressal officers in the nation and resolve customer grievances inside a particular time period, as effectively as have designated nodal officers for coordination with the government more than law and order matters. For messaging platforms like WhatsApp, a new requirement has been inserted which needs it to provide the initially originator of what is deemed as mischievous messages by government which might lead to law and order issue or threatens the country’s sovereignty, integrity, or friendly relations with neighbours.