Need to Reform the Information Technology Rules, 2021

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Synopsis: Though, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 has many positives there are some ambiguities that need to be addressed.

What are the positive provisions in the Information Technology Rules, 2021?
  • Positives in the Information Technology Rules, 2021: It mandates duties on social media platforms such as
    • Removal of non-consensual intimate pictures within 24 hours,
    • Publication of compliance reports increasing transparency,
    • Setting up of a dispute resolution mechanism for content removal
    • Adding a label to information for users to know whether the content is advertised, owned, sponsored, or exclusively controlled.
What are the ambiguities in the Information Technology Rules, 2021?
  • First, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 goes against some landmark judicial precedents of the supreme court.
    • For instance, in the case of Life Insurance Corpn. Of India vs Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992), the SC had stated that ‘the freedom to circulate one’s views as the lifeline of any democratic institution’.
    • The Information Technology Rules, 2021 makes the Government the ultimate adjudicator of objectionable speech online. It restricts the citizen’s right to dissent against the government.
  • Second, the act violates the legal principle of colourable legislation, and it is void.
    • For instance, the act was framed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).
    • Although, the Second Schedule of the Business Rules, 1961 does not empower MeiTY to frame regulations for ‘digital media’.
    • The power to legislate on digital media belongs to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • Third, no alternative option for fair recourse by the social media intermediaries.
    • For instance, an intermediary is now supposed to take down content within 36 hours upon receiving orders from the Government.
    • However, in the event of a disagreement with the Government’s order, the Intermediary does not have an option for a fair recourse.
  • Fourth, undermine the right to privacy by imposing a traceability requirement.
    • For instance, a User’s privacy is protected by guaranteeing end-to-end encryption.
    • It does not allow intermediaries to have access to the contents of user’s messages. However, imposing this mandatory requirement of traceability will break this immunity.
    • This will also render all the data from these conversations vulnerable to attack from third parties.
  • Fifth, the rules empower a government authority to classify Fake news. In the event of the authority becoming arbitrary, ill-decisioned, and biased the purpose of eliminating fake news will fail.
  • Sixth, the rules place a barrier on the “marketplace of ideas” and also on the economic market of intermediaries by adding redundant financial burdens.
    • For instance, the Rules requiring intermediaries to have Indian resident nodal officers, compliance officers, and grievance officers. Intermediaries are also required to have offices located in India.

The above-mentioned issues in Information Technology Rules, 2021 need to be addressed. Further, following provisions should be made in place. These include, to ensure citizen’s right to have a private conversation, to engage in a transaction, to dissent, to have an opinion, and to articulate the same without any fear of imprisonment.

Source: The Hindu

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