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Govt working on tighter norms for social media companies, new age technologies

The IT Ministry is working on amendments to the Information Technology Act in order to gain tighter control over social media companies, beyond the purview of the newly notified intermediary rules, government officials aware of the matter said. 

“The government is working on adding aspects to the IT Act, which was last modified in 2008, to be better equipped in dealing with social media and other new-age technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” a senior government official told Entrackr on condition of anonymity.  

To be sure, social media companies are regulated under intermediary rules, the latest version of which have been in effect since May 26. “However, the amendments to the core IT Act will subsume these rules and give the government more control over platforms offering these services,” another official said, seeking anonymity. 

Another thing to note is that the regulation of digital media companies, especially digital news outlets, as prescribed under the intermediary rules has taken a hit after an unfavourable judgement from the Bombay High Court, which stayed the implementation of two provisions of rules on digital news companies since they went over and beyond the core IT Act. 

“With the new amendments, the government is looking to address those issues so that the intermediary rules can also be better enforced on all stakeholders,” the first official said. 

The government is planning to define online bullying and harassment, among other things as part of the fresh amendments. It is also looking to add “new age technologies” like blockchain and bitcoin to the IT Act for greater control over these businesses. 

“The last time the IT Act was amended was in 2008 and since then India’s internet space has changed substantially. The government expects it to keep on changing at a fast pace and as a result, it is important to deal with new forms of technology,” the second official said. 

The intermediary rules as applicable to social media platforms had resulted in a months-long bitter standoff between the Indian government and social media giant Twitter, which according to the government, had not appointed key personnel in accordance with the rules. 

The battle finally came to an end last month after Twitter made these appointments to the satisfaction of the government.

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