The government issued detailed social media guidelines on February 25, 2021, and gave social media firms three months to comply. The deadline is May 25, but according to reports, none of the top companies have followed the new guidelines. All major social media intermediaries were expected to appoint executives for three positions under guidelines released in February. In India, social media companies with more than 50 lakh users are classified as "significant" social media intermediaries.
Sources claim that social media sites have yet to name executive officers as required by new regulations. This includes the resident grievance officer, a chief enforcement officer, and a nodal contact person. They have not done so even though the deadline is today.
According to reports, if companies do not comply within the next two days, they will forfeit the immunity granted to them. Immunity is granted under section 79 of the Information Technology Act.
It needed a three-tier self-regulatory framework for streaming services. Enhanced due diligence by social media firms and data sharing with compliance authorities is also required.
The new regulations require intermediaries such as WhatsApp to reveal the first originator of messages flagged by the government. Others such as Facebook and Twitter must remove illegal material within 36 hours of being flagged.
On February 25, the new social media rules were notified. Implementation was set to begin three months later for significant intermediaries. A major intermediary in India is a social media company with more than 5 million users.
Chief Enforcement Officer
The new rules also require that major social media intermediaries, name a chief enforcement officer based in India. They will be responsible for ensuring that the Act and rules are followed. These include Facebook, Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
Nodal Contact Person
A nodal contact person should be named to coordinate with law enforcement officials 24x7. For the functions mentioned under the grievance redressal system, another resident grievance officer should be named.
Resident Grievance Officer
The resident grievance officer must accept the complaint within 24 hours of receipt and settle it within fifteen days. To prevent the development of fake accounts on social media sites, the companies must implement a voluntary verification process. Major social media companies should also have a physical presence in India.
KOO is the only company that has complied
Except for one Indian social media firm, Koo (which has over 50 lakh users), none of the major social media intermediaries have complied. They have not named the resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer, or nodal contact person as required by the rules.
Associations representing large social media companies, including IAMAI, Ficci, and Nasscom, have written to the government requesting that significant social media intermediaries be given an additional six months to comply with the new deadline.
Nasscom has argued in favor of the extension. Stating that the Ministry may require monthly progress reports to ensure that the deadlines are met by the concerned intermediaries.
Some of the obligations are likely to be difficult to comply with within a remote work setting, which has been necessitated in light of the unanticipated increase in Covid-19 cases in India, the resulting restrictions on individual movement, and the temporary closure of physical office spaces, according to the associations.
Furthermore, some of the changes, especially those requiring product and process changes – such as ad transparency, steps to allow message tracing, and the establishment of a Chief Compliance Officer's office – will necessitate more time for compliance.
The threat after May 25th
The social media sites will continue to work, but they will no longer have the legal status of "intermediary."
Under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, these websites, known as intermediaries, have been exempted from liability for any third-party information data, etc. hosted by them. This ensures they are not legally responsible for user-generated content.
The regulations take effect on May 26, 2021, and if social media firms do not follow them, they risk losing their status and rights as intermediaries, as well as facing criminal action under Indian law.
In the past, social media platforms have used models such as "free speech" and "promoting open communication" to oppose the government's efforts to implement "accountability and transparency."
Over the last year, there has been an ongoing conflict between social media companies and the Indian government, as well as legislative committees, over how these websites work and their adherence to the Constitution's rules and provisions. The government ordered Twitter to take down over 1,100 accounts that it said were "threaten[ing] public order" during the farmers' protest.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had written to Twitter, requesting that the “manipulated media” tag be removed from some of the tweets sent by politicians in response to a “toolkit” designed to allegedly “undermine, derail, and demean” the government's efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Ministry, such tagging by Twitter seemed prejudged, prejudiced, and a deliberate effort to slant local law enforcement agencies' investigations.