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Govt to notify revised IT intermediary guidelines by mid-February

social media

The government’s much-awaited revised IT intermediary guidelines that will make social media platforms more responsible for their content will be finalised by mid-February and submitted to the Supreme Court.

Before notifying the rules, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), which has been scrutinising every clause carefully, has sought the law ministry’s views on the provisions of the guidelines.

According to reports, the law ministry is expected to finalise the guidelines in the next few days. After their nod, the guidelines will be notified and submitted to the top court by mid-February.

The revised intermediary guideline has already crossed its last deadline, Jan 15, set by the Supreme Court.

The proposed guidelines will make social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and TikTok more responsible for their content and users’ behaviour on their platforms.

Under the revised guidelines, the social media firms will have to verify users’ mobile numbers, take down objectionable content within a 24-hour timeline, trace the origin of messages when required by court orders and build automated tools to identify child pornography and terror-related content, said an ET report.

However, social media platforms have raised concerns over traceability and timeline clauses and find it to be an attack on the privacy of users.

For the past several months, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been locked in a court battle with the Indian government over the issue of traceability of messages on its platform.

The messaging platform warned that traceability would expose many citizens and professionals, dangering their privacy and could even be misused for political gain. 

Earlier on Jan 7, foreign firms including GitHub, Mozilla and Cloudflare, had written to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and requested him to be more transparent and open about the intermediaries amendments.

They raised concerns over the requirement of ‘legal local incorporation’ as a major operation obligation without a justified timeline.

Over the years, in its fight against surging misinformation and fake news, the government has emphasised on curbing misinformation through automated tools or appointment of an officer for 24X7 coordination by social media and IT firms.

In 2018-19, many lynching incidents and incitement of violence were reported owing to the circulation of fake news and rumours through social platforms like WhatsApp.

Taking note of this, the Supreme Court had asked the government to take steps and to revise intermediary guidelines to curb the spread of misinformation.

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