Brief Note on The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 was notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in February, 2021. The 2021 Rules replace the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. The Rules provides the due diligence to be followed by an intermediary (including social media intermediary) while discharging its duties, Grievance Redressal Mechanism and Digital Media Code of Ethics within May 26, 2021. Read more

Below are the key take-aways from the 2021 Rule-

Intermediaries - Intermediaries as defined under The Information Technology Act, 2000 are entities that store or transmit data on behalf of other persons. Intermediaries include internet or telecom service providers, online marketplaces, and social media platforms.

The due diligence to be observed by intermediaries includes:-

a. Blocking access to unlawful information within 36 hours upon an order from the Court, or the government;

b. Retain information collected for the registration of a user for 180 days after cancellation or withdrawal of registration;

c. Publish on its website (or mobile based application or both), the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its computer resource by any person;

d. Report cybersecurity incidents and share related information with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team.

e. Inform its users (at least once every year), the consequences of non-compliance with rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement for access or usage of the computer resources or any change in the rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement.

f. Provide information under its control or possession within 72 hours on receiving order from the Government agency (authorised for investigative or protective or cyber security activities, for the purposes of verification of identity, or for the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution, of offences)

g. Publish the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details on its website, mobile based application, as well as Grievance Redressal Mechanism by which a user or a victim may make complaint against violation of the provisions of this rule or any other matters pertaining to the computer resources made available by it.

h. Complaints must be acknowledged within 24 hours and disposed of within 15 days.

Significant social media intermediaries- A social media intermediary with registered users in India above a threshold of more than 50 Lakh users will be classified as Significant Social Media Intermediaries.

Additional due diligence to be observed by these intermediaries within 3 months from the date of notification include:

a. Appointment of a chief compliance officer to ensure compliance with the IT Act and the Rules

b. Appointment of a grievance officer residing in India, and

c. Appointment of a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. ( “Nodal contact person” means the employee of a significant social media intermediary, other than the Chief Compliance Officer, who is resident in India)

d. Publish a monthly compliance report. (Mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken thereon, and the number of specific communication links or parts of information that the intermediary has removed or disabled access to in pursuance of any proactive monitoring conducted by using automated tools).

e. A significant social media Intermediaries which provide messaging as a primary service must enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its platform. If the first originator is located outside India, the first originator of that information within India will be deemed to be the first originator.

f. Enable users who register for their services from India, or use their services in India, to voluntarily verify their accounts by using any appropriate mechanism, including the active Indian mobile number of such users, and where any user voluntarily verifies their account, such user shall be provided with a demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which shall be visible to all users of the service.

g. The significant social media intermediary shall have a physical contact address in India published on its website, mobile based application or both, for the purposes of receiving the communication addressed to it.

h. A significant social media intermediary shall endeavour to deploy technology-based measures, to proactively identify information that depicts any act or simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct, whether explicit or implicit, or any information which is exactly identical in content to information that has previously been removed or access to which has been disabled on the computer resource of such intermediary and shall display a notice to any user attempting to access such information stating that such information has been identified by the intermediary.

Digital Media Publishers: The 2021 rules has prescribed certain ethical practices to be followed by the (i) news and current affairs content providers, and (ii) online curated content providers (also known as OTT platforms).

i. For news and current affairs, the following existing codes will apply:

a. Norms of journalistic conduct formulated by the Press Council of India

b. Programme code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995.

ii. For OTT platforms, the requirements include:

a. Classifying content in age-appropriate categories as specified,

b. Implementing an age verification mechanism for access to adult content, and access control measures such as parental controls

c. Improving accessibility of content for disabled persons.

For News and OTT platforms, a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism will be in place for dealing with complaints regarding content:

(i). Self-regulation by the publishers,

(ii). self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers, and

(iii). Oversight mechanism by the central government.

iv. Appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India and address complaints within 15 days. As part of the oversight mechanism, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will establish an Inter-Departmental Committee to hear grievances not addressed by self-regulatory bodies and also oversee adherence to the code of ethics.

DISCLAIMER: This document is being furnished to you for your information. You may choose to reproduce or redistribute this report for non-commercial purposes in part or in full to any other person with due acknowledgement of LegaTrack Solutions Private Limited. The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author(s). This document has been prepared without regard to the objectives or opinions of those who may receive it.