On 25 February 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology via a notification made amendments to Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 herein referred to as “IT Rules 2021”. The IT Rules 2021 simply says within 3 months every social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary (more than 50 lakh registered users), which means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the made in India Koo app, need to appoint a) Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) b) A Resident Grievance Officer c) Nodal contact person (24*7).
Further, another clause of IT Rule 2021 said a significant social media intermediary shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction. This includes the first originator in a location outside India as well.
Further, the IT Rules 2021 clearly says when a social media intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable for such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The Giants Seven social media platforms have complied with some of the rules under the new IT rules that came into effect earlier this week. Koo, Sharechat, Telegram, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, WhatsApp have shared the list of their Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and Grievance Officer as envisaged under the IT Rules, 2021 with India’s Information Technology (IT) ministry.
Twitter Meanwhile, Twitter is yet to follow the rule and told the government that it is nominating a lawyer as its Nodal Contact Person and Grievance Officer. However, according to the IT Rules 2021, the officers should be employees of the company and residents in India
Let’s see what regulations other countries has in place.
Australia: The Disinformation Code (Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation)
A new code of practice was launched in February 2021, that commits a diverse set of technology companies to reducing the risk of online misinformation causing harm to Australians. The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation has been adopted by Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok, Adobe and Apple. Top tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, TikTok and Twitter have have agreed on adopt the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation that aims to address the spread of fake news and disinformation on online platforms.
The Code was developed in response to Australian Government policy where it asked the major digital platforms to develop a voluntary code of conduct outlining what the platforms will do to address concerns regarding disinformation and credibility signalling for news content.
The code clearly says Concepts such as “disinformation”, “misinformation”, and “fake news” mean different things to different people and can become politically charged when they are used by people to attack others who hold different opinions on value-laden political issues on which reasonable people may disagree. Here Misinformation means: Digital Content that is verifiably false or misleading or deceptive is propagated by users of digital platforms; and the dissemination of which is reasonably likely (but may not be clearly intended to) cause Harm.
Timelines 3 Months:
The IT Rules 2021 were notified on 25 February 2021 and the Australian Code was notified on 22 February 2021. Both the IT Rule 2021 and Australian Code were to be adopted by the Social Media Platforms within 3 Months. Every social media platform including Twitter adopted the Australian Code on 22 May 2021. Why did Twitter not comply with IT Rules 2021 within 3 Months in India?
Link for Transparency reports by all social Media platforms
Source of Origin
One of the clauses in the IT Rule 2021 is also identifying the first originator of the information on its computer resource and such information will be provided to the authorities in electronic form.
The same clauses are included in the Australian Code to which Twitter has already agreed to “the extent to which it is reasonably possible to verify the falsity of relevant Digital Content via an authoritative or credible source”
Further, there is a clause in he Australian Code that the social media will implement measures to enable users to make informed choices about digital content and to ACCESS ALTERNATIVE SORCE OF INFOMRATION and the provision or use of technologies which signal the credibility of news sources or which assist digital platforms or their users to check the authenticity or accuracy of online news content or to identify its provenance or SOURCE.
Further, the same provisions are in the Australian Code as well which says “Social Media should not be compelled by Governments or other parties to remove content solely on the basis of its alleged falsity but it also states “if the content would not otherwise be unlawful Given its subject matter”
Why is Twitter reluctant to follow the same in India? Why did Twitter reinstate accounts that were misleading in India?
Per IT Rules 2021, any social media company to create three roles in India: a “compliance officer” who will ensure they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who will address complaints from Indian users about their platforms; and a “contact person” available to Indian law enforcement 24/7.
Similarly, in Australian Code Social Media Platforms agree to establish, within six months of the commencement of the Code, a facility for addressing non-compliance with the Code. The facility will hear appeals of complaints of Code breaches that have not been acted upon by Social Meida and a policy describing circumstances in which a non-compliant Signatory may be removed. Code.
The Administrator of this Code will establish a sub-committee comprising representatives from Social Media and independent members who will meet at six monthly intervals to review the actions of Social Media and monitor how they are meeting their commitments under the Code.
Why did Twitter agree to this clause in Australia and reluctant in India?
As per IT Rule 2021, Social Media companies will also have to publish a compliance report every month detailing how many complaints they received and what action they took.
The same provision is in the Australian Code which says every Social Media will provide an annual report setting out its progress towards achieving the outcomes contained in the Code.
Not only in Australia but other Countries like Germany and United States, Twitter complies with the law of the land, but is reluctant to do so in India.