IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


12th October, 2023 Polity

Copyright infringement not intended

Picture Courtesy: indianexpress.com

Context: The Bombay High Court to deliver a verdict on petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. These rules empower the Union Government's Fact Check Unit (FCU) to identify and demand the removal of online content deemed "fake, false, or misleading" related to the Central Government's business.

Key Highlights

  • In April 2023, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEiTY) in India introduced the 2023 IT Rules. These rules amended the Information Technology Rules of 2021 and included a provision, Rule 3(1)(b)(v), which allowed the Ministry to establish a fact-checking unit (FCU). This development prompted various legal actions.
    • This amendment essentially empowers the government to identify and label information as false or misleading, and intermediaries are mandated to prevent the dissemination of such content on their platforms. Failure to do so could result in legal consequences for the intermediaries.
  • The Editors Guild of India and the Association of Indian Magazines filed writ petitions with the Bombay High Court. They challenged Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the IT Rules, arguing that it could lead to government-led online censorship and give the government excessive control over determining what is considered "truth" online.
  • The government defended the provision, stating that the FCU's role would be to notify intermediaries or online platforms about content that is fake, false, or misleading. The intermediaries would then have the option to either remove the content or leave it up with a disclaimer.

Amendment to Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the IT Rules 2021

Intermediaries' Responsibility

Intermediaries are now obligated to make "reasonable efforts" to ensure that users do not engage in activities such as hosting, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, transmitting, storing, updating, or sharing any information that is identified as fake, false, or misleading. This identification is done by a fact-check unit of the Central government.

Scope of Content

This obligation specifically applies to information related to "any business of the Central government." In other words, intermediaries are required to prevent the dissemination of false or misleading information specifically pertaining to government affairs or activities.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

If intermediaries fail to comply with this requirement, they risk losing the safe harbour protection provided under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. Safe harbour protection exempts intermediaries from liability for any third-party information made available or hosted by them. In essence, if intermediaries do not make reasonable efforts to prevent the sharing of false government-related information, they could be held liable for such content.

Must Read Articles:

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines And Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/information-technology-intermediary-guidelines-and-digital-media-ethics-code-amendment-rules-2023#:~:text=Mandatory%20for%20Online%20Platforms,be%20removed%20from%20their%20platforms.

SOCIAL MEDIA REGULATION: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/social-media-regulation


Q. What are the key challenges and considerations in regulating social media platforms to strike a balance between freedom of expression and addressing issues like misinformation, hate speech, and privacy concerns?