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Information Technology Act, 2021

On 25th February, 2021, government of India had framed Information technology act (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021[1]. This rule have been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 of IT act,2000. It supressed Information Technology act,2011. It came into effect on 26th May, 2021. Through this case article, I will discuss what is Information Technology Act, 2021, what are the reasons for this act to be framed, IT Act, 2000, government of India's statement on this and what are the controversies related to IT act, 2021.

What Is Information Technology Act, 2021

Information technology act (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 is a subordinate legislation which was framed by government of India, coordinating with Ministry of Electronics and Broadcasting and Ministry of Information and Technology. It was framed by stemming section 87 of IT act,2000, Intermediaries Rules, 2018[2] and the OTT Regulation and Code of Ethics for Digital Media.

According to this new rule:
  • It is mandatory to set up a grievance redressal office for OTT (over the top) and digital portal in the country
  • A chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person are to be appointed by social media firms. He/she will be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.
  • A grievance officer has to be appointed by social media firms. He/she have to register the grievance within 24 hours and has to dispose it off within 15 days.
  • Social media platform have to remove the content within 24 hours If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women about their exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc.
  • Social media platforms have to submit a monthly report the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.
  • There will be three levels of regulation for news publishers, self-regulation, a self-regulatory body, which will be headed by a retired judge or an eminent person, and oversight from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, including codes of practices and a grievance committee.
  • Social media companies which have more than 50 lakh registered users will be considered 'significant social media intermediaries'.
  • If they do not comply with the rules then they could face a ban. Also, they run the risk of losing their status as "intermediaries" and may become liable for criminal action if they do not comply with the revised regulations.
     

Reasons For It Act, 2021 To Be Frame

India is the world's largest open internet society and the government of India welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the constitution of India. But with this, serious concerns have also been raised in parliament, especially in 2018 monsoon session as social media platforms are also used to spread fake news, to abuse someone on social media, to circulate defamatory and obscene content, morphed images of women, revenge porn, etc.

This is all because of lack of robust complaint mechanism through which, ordinary social media users can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline.

Also, lack of transparency and absence of robust grievance redressal mechanism left the users totally dependent on the whims and fancies of social media platforms. It has been seen that a user who has spent his time, energy and money in developing a social media profile is left with no remedies in case that profile is restricted or removed by the platform without giving any opportunity.

Information Technology Act, 2000

Information technology act,2000 [3]was notified by Indian parliament on 17 October, 2000. In 1996, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law adopted a model law on e-commerce and digital intricacies. It made compulsory for every country to have its own laws on e-commerce and cybercrimes. After this, government of India passed the IT Act was passed in 2000, making India the 12th country in the world to pass legislation for cyber crimes.

The main purpose of this act was:
  • To protect all the transactions done through electronic means.
  • To recognize the digital signatures that are used for any sort of legal authentication.
  • To regulate the activities of intermediaries and protect citizens from cybercrime.

Also, this act:
  • Defines cyber crimes
  • Provides legal framework for electronic governance by giving recognition to electronic records and digital signatures.
  • Appoints controller as certifying authority
  • Mandates obtaining license for electronic certificate

Government Statement On Information Technology Act, 2021

According to the notification released by government of India, social media platforms have empowered ordinary users but they need accountability against its misuse and abuse. The new rules empowers ordinary users of social media, embodying a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievance.

Rules about digital media and OTT focuses on in house and self-regulation mechanism whereby a robust grievance redressal mechanism have been provided while upholding journalistic and creative freedom .The proposed framework is a progressive, liberal and contemporaneous one.

It seeks to address peoples of varied concerns while removing any misapprehension about curbing creativity and freedom of speech and expression. Also, the guidelines have been framed keeping in mind the difference between viewership in a theatre and television as compared to watching it on internet.

Controversies Related To Information Technology Act, 2021

  • It deprives intermediaries of a fair recourse in the event that it disagrees with the Government's order due to a strict timeline.
  • It had also been alleged that Information Technology Act, 2021 is violative of freedom of speech and expression.
  • This rule also makes a mandatory requirement of traceability. This will break this immunity of the intermediaries that they were having earlier of end to end encryption, that they cannot read the message of the users. This is violative as it is invasion of privacy.
  • The definition of intermediaries may be too broad in this act.
  • It also violated the code of ethics. According to the rules, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting may pass an order for blocking the content of an online publisher in case of emergency maybe on the grounds of national security and public order and at that time these intermediaries are not given a chance of hearing.

Conclusion
Information Technology Act, 2021 is the need of the hour as too much of content is posted on social media platforms and some of them vulgar and misappropriate in nature and also affects the mind of the youth in a negative sense. Also, there is an abuse of social media platforms by spreading fake news, sending inappropriate content like sending threats, child pornography, etc.

But this rule have many issues mentioned above. Most importantly, it violates our right to freedom of speech and expression and right to privacy. This act is necessary but government needs to make sure that this act does not exceeds the rights of a citizen of India.

End-Notes:
  1. Information Technology Act, 2021
  2. Intermediaries Rule, 2018
  3. Information Technology Act, 2000

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