Govt seeks 3 more months to frame social media rules

Representative image.

The Union government has sought three months’ time to finalise “effective, robust and comprehensive” rules for Facebook, Twitter etc, saying there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, unlawful and anti-national activities using Internet and social media platforms.

In the last few years, there has been enormous increase in the use of social media and with lower Internet tariff, availability of smart phone devices and last-mile connectivity, more and more people are becoming part of Internet and social media platforms, it said. “The Internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to democratic polity. It was felt that extant rules should be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries, considering the ever-growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology stated in an affidavit.

A draft Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines, 2018, was published last year and comments were invited from the public, even though the extant 2011 rules stated that an individual has the right to seek redressal and protection of his reputation and dignity.

Various rounds of discussion among the stake-holders, including social media companies, have already taken place.

Conscious decision

“In view of the complexity involved in the matter and the significant impact it entails on functioning of all stake-holders, including netizens, a conscious decision was taken to call for further inter-ministerial consultations so that effective, robust and comprehensive rules covering all aspects of the matter can be framed,” it said.

It said a period of three months would be required to finalise and notify the final revised rules.

The government’s response came to the Supreme Court’s order on September 24. The court was hearing a plea by Facebook Inc for transfer of a case from the Madras High Court to the apex court, where a plea was made to make social media companies more responsive to the request of law enforcement agencies in solving criminal cases. There was a prayer for linking social media accounts to Aadhaar though the high court decided not to consider it.

The court is to hear the matter on Tuesday.

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