The union minister said the platforms are required to follow certain due diligence as specified in the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 notified under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.
Of late, a storm has been brewing over the content generated and posted on social media and digital media platforms. Responding to questions posed by tech entrepreneur and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar in Parliament on Thursday (February 11), union minister of state for IT Sanjay Dhotre has said the government has taken a host of measures to ensure that social media platforms comply with Indian laws.
Chandrasekhar asked whether the government was aware of the recent controversies about the alleged bias and subsequent infringement of Article 19 by certain social media and digital media platforms.
He also sought to know if their algorithms and community guidelines were consistent with Indian laws and “equitably applied” to all Indian citizens as guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution.
Dhotre said he had learnt of the alleged bias through news reports, grievances received by the ministry as well as court cases in this regard. He pointed out that with the proliferation of Internet as well as social and digital media, anybody could post anything online, leading to the creation of a huge repository of data. In this context, there was undeniable possibility of such data being in violation of Article 19(2) of the Constitution, he said.
Article 19(2) authorises the government to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression “in the interests of… public order”.
While affirming that measures are in place to safeguard Indian citizens, the union minister added that the platforms are required to follow certain due diligence as specified in the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 notified under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.
Section 79 of the Act, Dhotre said, provides that the platforms, which host third-party information on their resource and therefore, act as intermediaries, are required to disable/ remove unlawful content in compliance with Article 19(2) of the Constitution, upon being notified either through a court order or by appropriate government or its agency. Such rules are being amended to make the digital platforms more responsive and accountable, while ensuring that they adhere to the Code of Ethics.
IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also warned social media companies against spreading fake news and incendiary material, stating that action will be initiated for violation of Indian laws. The freedom of speech comes with reasonable restrictions, he sought to remind digital platforms.
On February 10, IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney had expressed displeasure over delayed compliance by microblogging platform Twitter to the government’s order for removing “provocative” tweets relating to the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
(Edited by : Jomy)
First Published: IST