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Govt Yet To Provide SOPs for New IT Rules As Deadline Draws Near

Govt Yet To Provide SOPs for New IT Rules As Deadline Draws Near

The government is likely to bring out a standard operating procedure (SOP) on the new Information Technology Rules to address concerns raised by the intermediaries

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will also be soon releasing a set of “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) to simplify the requirements in the rules

The rules ask significant social media intermediaries to publish a compliance report every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken

As the deadline for digital media intermediaries to share their first compliance report draws near, the government is likely to bring out a standard operating procedure (SOP) on the new Information Technology Rules to address concerns raised by the intermediaries according to reports.

A government official told Business Standard that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will also be soon releasing a set of “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) to simplify the requirements in the rules on lines similar to what was done by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting a few days ago.

The industry has been asking for clarity on several issues regarding the new controversial IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rule that was enacted on May 26.

Under the new law, all intermediaries such as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others are required to appoint compliance officers including chief compliance officers, resident grievance officers and other employees specifically to deal with the requirements under the law. 

The rules ask significant social media intermediaries, or those with over five Mn users, to publish a compliance report every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken, the number of specific communication links, or parts of information that the intermediary removed or disabled access to as a result of proactive monitoring conducted by using automated tools or any other relevant information as may be specified. By the end of June, the companies will be liable to provide their first monthly compliance report for which they have no guidance so far. Many of these platforms already publish annual and half yearly transparency reports, but they don’t have a standard format for the same and hence require government guidance for the same. 

“The FAQs will be in a very simple format, explaining the IT rules, but the SOPs might take longer because we will have consultation with stakeholders. It is a procedural document,” the official was quoted as saying. The I&B Ministry had, a few days ago, released FAQs for the Digital Media Ethics Code, which is part of the IT Rules, 2021.

“As mentioned in Section 4(d), Part II of the rules, the compliance report should have bare minimum detail on what type of content was removed or what other action was taken,” the official was quoted as saying.

The platforms also have to take down objectionable content/posts within 36 hours of receiving a complaint from competent authorities under the new laws. Platforms have been asking for clarity on the timeline for informing users before content is taken down, if at all.

Last week, Indian representatives of social media platform Twitter which hasn’t complied with all requirements so far, was directed to abide by the country’s new controversial IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, by a parliamentary panel that met the company. Meanwhile, a team of rapporteurs appointed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has written to the government raising concern about the vague and arbitrary language of the IT rules.