Confirming the development, a senior government official said MeitY is currently fine-tuning the guidelines and they are being discussed with IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The government is in the advanced stages of finalising guidelines for IT intermediaries like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, internet service providers (ISPs) and search engines like Google. The guidelines have been framed with an intent to curb misuse of social media platforms and to check the spread of fake news and provocative content.
Sources said the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) is in the final stages of preparing the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018, which will replace the rules notified in April 2011. “There are discussions taking place at the level of IT minister and secretary and guidelines will be notified very soon,” one of the sources added. An intermediary is an entity which offers services like delivery of online content to the end user. Confirming the development, a senior government official said MeitY is currently fine-tuning the guidelines and they are being discussed with IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “It (guidelines) is expected to come out soon,” he added.
The draft guidelines propose that intermediaries should help the government and law enforcement agencies for tracing individuals or entities who are spreading fake or unlawful information, within a period of 72 hours upon receiving such a request. It also seeks to ‘disable access’ within 24 hours to content considered defamatory or against national security.
That apart, for intermediaries with more than 50 lakh members, the draft proposes that such entities need to be registered with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), have a permanent office in India and appoint a nodal person to coordinate with law enforcement agencies. Also, if they receive a court order or a notification from a government agency, they should act and remove unlawful content within 24 hours. The draft guidelines have generally received a negative response from the IT industry, which termed it as arbitrary, violating right to privacy and financially unviable. Several IT and tech companies even registered their objections regarding the policy in the counter comments invited by MeitY.