On 29th October 2022, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology notified amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“IT Rules”) for an “open, safe & trusted and accountable Internet” under the ambit of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. These rules make it mandatory for all intermediaries to comply with the sovereign laws of India.
Presently, intermediaries are only required to warn users about the dangers of uploading specific types of hazardous or unlawful information. Under the new amendment, intermediaries will be required to take reasonable steps to prevent users from uploading such content. The new rule will ensure that the role of the intermediary is more than just a mere formality.
The rules and regulations of the intermediary must be adequately communicated in regional Indian languages as well.
Rule 3(1)(b)(ii) of the IT rules provides the due diligence duties of the intermediary regarding their platforms, concerning disabling any mode of hosting, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, transmitting, storing, updating, or sharing any unlawful information. Rule 3(1)(b)(ii) no longer includes the words “defamatory” and “libelous”. Furthermore, a judicial determination will be made as to whether any content is libelous or defamatory. Certain material categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been reworded to specifically target falsehoods and materials that can incite violence between religious or caste groups.
The amendment allows for the establishment of the Grievance Appellate Committee (“GAC”). These will allow consumers to challenge intermediaries’ inaction or actions on user complaints. Users can, however, always seek redress in court.
The amendment, through adding new laws, requires intermediaries to preserve the “rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution of India.” Second, it introduces new grievance appellate panels, which give users another way to challenge the decisions of grievance officers or mediators. Third, it has suggested modifying the grievance redress mechanism. As a result, intermediaries will have 72 hours to respond to any complaints about content removal from a site.
Rule 3(1)(b)(ii), Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,