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The code of ethics and procedure, and safeguards in relation to the digital media

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 10, Mar 2022
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Reference News:-

The Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has approached the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) of all the State and Union Territory governments to initiate an awareness drive for sensitising their officials to the code of ethics and procedure, and safeguards in relation to the digital media.

  • The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which was notified by the Central government on February 25, 2021, relates to the digital news publishers.
  • It is administered by the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry Ministry.

Overview of the rules:

The Rules provide for:

  1. A code of ethics to be followed by digital news publishers and OTT platforms.
  2. A three-tier grievance redress mechanism, which includes self-regulation by publishers at the first level, self-regulation by self-regulating bodies of the publishers and an oversight mechanism by the Central government.
  3. Procedures for them to furnish the required information.
  4. Significant social media firms have to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.
  5. A grievance officer: Social media platforms will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and dispose of it in 15 days.

What is a significant social media intermediary and benefits obtained under it?

Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users will be considered ‘significant social media intermediaries’, as per the new norms.

What happens in case of non compliance?

  • Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp messenger could face a ban if they do not comply with the new Information Technology rules.
  • They also run the risk of losing their status as “intermediaries” and may become liable for criminal action if they do not comply with the revised regulations.

What are the Concerns being raised?

  1. Various industry bodies have written to the government for up to a one-year compliance window, particularly in view of the pandemic.
  2. Concerns have also been expressed over potential unavailability of ‘safe harbour’ protection given to intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act, under the new rules.
  3. They have requested a re-think over a clause in the new rules which can lead to imposition of criminal liability upon the employees for non-compliance by intermediaries, asking for it to be dropped in the interest of ease of doing business.
  4. Originator traceability mandate in end-to-end encrypted platforms could end up weakening the security architecture of the platform. This could render the entire citizenry susceptible to cyberattacks by hostile actors.
  5. Additionally, the extant data retention mandate entailed risking privacy of users in India and abroad in addition to security risks and technical complexities which requires a lot of time for development and testing before integration with the existing ecosystem.