What the Proposed Amendments to IT Rules 2021 Constitute

Recently, the central government proposed certain amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 and sought public opinion on the same

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Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, has said that the Centre is looking to update part II of IT Rules, 2021 so as to handle emerging cyberspace-related issues, say news reports.

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Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 or the IT Rules was notified in February 2021. It came into effect a few months later.

And, on June 1, 2022, the central government proposed certain amendments to the IT Rules, 2021. However, a few hours after uploading the doc inviting public comments on the amendments, the IT ministry withdrew the draft proposal. But a few days later, the government sought opinion again.

IT Rules, 2021, a background

It requires intermediaries to designate a grievance officer to address complaints regarding violations of the Rules.

The 2021 Rules also require the intermediary to "publish" rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its services. Further, the Rules also specify restrictions on the types of content that users are allowed to create, upload, or share and require intermediaries to "inform" users about these restrictions.

The proposed draft amendments

The Ministry observed that sometimes the grievance officers did not address the grievances satisfactorily or fairly. So, the draft amendments propose an alternative mechanism for such appeals, according to which a Grievance Appellate Committee will be formed by the central government to hear appeals against the decisions of grievance officers.

The Committee will consist of a chairperson and other members appointed by the central government through a notification and will be empowered to review and maybe reverse content moderation decisions taken by social media companies. The Committee is required to dispose of such appeals within 30 days from the date of receipt. The concerned intermediary must also comply with the order passed by the Committee.

"The Central Government shall constitute one or more Grievance Appellate Committees, which shall consist of a Chairperson and such other Members, as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint," MeitY said in the draft.

The amendments also propose to expand the obligation on intermediaries to include "ensuring compliance" with rules and regulations, privacy policy, and user agreement, and "causing users to not" create, upload, or share prohibited content.

Besides, it also suggests placing additional responsibilities on grievance officers appointed by social media companies. It says that if a user complains about content that is "patently false", infringes copyright, and threatens the integrity of India, among other things, a grievance officer will have to expeditiously address it within 72 hours.