New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The new Information and Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, were framed by the Union Government on February 25 in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the IT Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011. These rules have made it compulsory for OTT platforms and digital portals in India to form a grievance redressal system.

Under the new IT rules, large digital platforms - with over 5 million users - will have to publish periodic compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken thereon.

However, the new IT Rules have also spurred a standoff between the Centre and some of the digital and social media companies, who have claimed that these guidelines were "illegal and unconstitutional" and against freedom of the press. However, the Centre is firm on the implementation of the IT Rules, 2021 and has said that "the law of the land is supreme and should be abided by everyone".

As the standoff continues, let's have a look at what are the new IT Rules and why Centre and social media platforms are at the loggerheads over them:

What are the IT Rules 2021 and why are they important?

The guidelines under the new IT Rules, 2021, say that there will be two categories, intermediary which can be social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary. Social media platforms would need to appoint a chief compliance officer residing in India and a nodal contact person who should reside in India for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.

Social media platforms would also need to appoint a resident grievance officer who shall perform the grievance redressal mechanism as indicated. They would also need to publish a monthly compliance report disclosing details of complaints received and action taken, as also details of contents removed pro-actively.

The government has said that these rules will "empower the ordinary users of social media" and their enactment had become necessary due to widespread concerns about issues relating to increased instances of abuse of social media and digital platforms.

"The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The independent judiciary and a robust media are part of India's democratic structure," the Union IT Ministry had said in a statement.

"The rules are designed to empower ordinary users of social media. The victims of abuse at social media platforms shall have a forum for redressal of their grievances. The IT rules finalised after due discussion with various stakeholders," it added.

What are the latest developments on New IT Rules, 2021?

1. Statutory Motion against IT Rules, 2021

The Rajya Sabha is expected to discuss a statutory motion against the IT Rules, 2021. This comes after LJD MP MV Shreyams Kumar moved a motion against the guidelines, demanding the Centre to repeal the rules. He has claimed that the rules are against freedom of the press and will impact the traditional media.

"The Centre claims that the Rules are aimed at social media. But according to this Rule, a joint secretary of the Centre can block a website. The media houses in the country are concerned about the Rules," he told The Hindu BusinessLine.

2. Centre likely to send fresh notices over non-compliance of IT Rules, 2021

According to media reports, the Centre is planning to send fresh notices to companies over the non-compliance of IT Rules, 2021. Reports suggest that the Centre will seek replies from companies on why they have not complied with the IT Rules, 2021.

Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who assumed the office last month, is also expected to hold a crucial meet with officials and representatives of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms following the conclusion of the monsoon session of the Parliament to discuss the IT Rules, 2021.

3. Supreme Court dismisses Centre's plea over stay on hearings in HCs

Last month, the Supreme Court had refused to pass any interim order to stay the proceedings of the cases pending before the various High Courts that challenged the constitutionality of the IT Rules, 2021.

A bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjiv Khanna tagged the plea of Centre seeking transfer of all petitions challenging IT Rules, 2021 from various high courts to the top court with a plea pending before it on the regulation of over-the-top (OTT platforms) content.

4. Actions taken by social media giants under IT Rules, 2021:

Facebook: In early July, Facebook had published its first monthly compliance report and said that it took proactive action on 1.8 million pieces of content containing adult nudity and sexual activity.

Instagram: Instagram took action against 4.90 lakh pieces of content containing adult nudity or sexual activity. It also removed 6.68 lakh pieces that were violent and had graphic content.

Google: Google removed 71,132 pieces of content in May and took 83,613 removal actions in June following user complaints, the company said in its monthly transparency reports released on July 30. In addition to reports from users, Google also removed 6,34,357 pieces of content in May and 5,26,866 in June as a result of automated detection. The US-based company has made these disclosures as part of compliance with India's IT rules that came into force on May 26.

Twitter: In its maiden monthly compliance report titled 'India Transparency Report: User Grievances and Proactive Monitoring July 2021', Twitter said that it had received 94 grievances and taken actions against 133 URLs from May 26 to June 25.

Koo App: Koo App, meanwhile, said that it removed 1,253 posts of the 5,502 cases that were reported. "As Koo gains traction across India, we will ensure that Koo respects the law of the land and meets the requirements, enabling every country to define its own digital ecosystem. This Compliance Report is one step in that direction," said its CEO Aprayameya Radhakrishna.

What is the status of writ petitions filed in different High Courts against IT Rules, 2021?

* Karnataka HC:

Advocate Charita V has challenged the IT Rules, 2021 in the Karnataka High Court, seeking directions to the Centre to declare Rule 3 (1) (d) and Rule 7 of the IT Rules, 2021 as "ultra vires and unconstitutional". The court has issued notice to the Centre.

* Madras HC:

The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) has also challenged the IT Rules, 2021 in the Madras High Court. The court has issued to notice to the Centre over the matter.

* Delhi HC:

News agency PTI has also challenged the IT Rules, 2021 in the Delhi High Court. PTI has said that the Centre is attempting to regulate digital news media through the guidelines.

Apart from PTI, lawyer Uday Bedi has also challenged the rules in the Delhi High Court. Bedi has claimed that the rules provide "sweeping powers" to social media intermediaries to voluntarily remove content based on complaints received.

* Kerala HC:

The Kerala High Court has granted interim relief to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) after it challenged the IT Rules, 2021. The court has directed the Centre not to take any "coercive action" against them under the Centre's new Cable TV rules.

Like NBA, LiveLaw has also challenged the acts in the Kerala High Court. It has claimed that the IT Rules, 2021 are violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), Article 19(a) (freedom of speech and expression), and 19(1)(g) (freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business).

* Bombay HC:

Senior journalist Nikhil Wagle has challenged the guidelines in the Bombay High Court and termed "them arbitrary, illegal and against the principle of net neutrality".

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma