The government of India is mulling to provide detailed guidelines on the procedure of how government agencies can ask for information or order content takedown to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others in line with the newly enforced Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021.
According to The Economic Times report, the clarification on the procedure is brought in after social media platforms along with industry bodies have voiced their opinion demanding SOPs on such post takedown requests and seeking information from social media intermediaries. These companies with more than 5 Mn users in the countries and industry bodies such as IAMAI have expressed that there are no formal procedures in place for law agencies to send takedown requests. These company executives have further sought to know whether a local police station in some parts of the country has the authority to file complaints against these companies. As per the new guidelines, companies failing to comply with the guidelines can lose intermediary protection offered by the government and if booked, top executives can even face trial.
Twitter, the micro-blogging platform which locked horns with the government and was hesitant in following the guidelines, saw multiple legal notices sent in recent times. In one particular case related to a communal video that went viral, Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari was asked to give a statement in a Uttar Pradesh police station. Mahewari sought transit anticipatory bail from the Karnataka High court. In the latest event, Karnataka High Court has postponed pronouncing its order.
A government official told the national daily that an SOP is being discussed on the procedure to issue notices, who can issue such notices and how it will be implemented along the procedure required to seek information or cooperation from intermediaries.
IAMAI had earlier requested that state governments should not be allowed to take down posts and that this power should remain to the central government.
The clarification on the intermediary guidelines is being worked by the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT. It is not to be mistaken that these are SOP guidelines and do not in any way change the content of the rules as they are already notified.