Social media businesses are expected to face ‘highly elevated’ accountability

The government will amend India’s IT laws to create a “legal structure” that will impose “enhanced accountability” on top social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, almost a year after stricter rules were imposed on the popular platforms, which have a user base in India that numbers in the millions.

According to a top source who requested anonymity, the government believes that social media and internet companies “ought to do more” to keep a check on the carriage of illicit, provocative, and illegal content and conversations on their platforms.

“Greater accountability is required… and there has been agreement on this.” Unlike in a traditional setup such as print media, when firms are held accountable for what is published on their platforms, there is currently little accountability for platforms “according to the source”.

Failure to monitor illegal and inflammatory remarks on multiple platforms, according to the government, risks disrupting India’s social fabric, as well as individual relationships inside communities.

The government believes that the social media giants’ “safe harbour” provision, which shields them from any illegal or provocative discussion on their platforms, has outlived its usefulness in a digitally connected society. “Look at Europe, east Asia, and even numerous states in the United States for examples of the safe harbour concept. Every region is working to establish more responsibility on the platforms. ”

According to the source, while social media platforms offer a significant benefit in terms of connecting people, there is a need for a “legal structure” surrounding some defined areas in order to provide adequate safeguards against exploitation. “There should be a legal framework in place to hold social media companies accountable.” We also require a legal framework to govern the concept of cyber security, as well as the protection of individuals’ personal data. ”

Many of the modifications will be incorporated into the new IT law, which has been in the works as the government transitions away from the present laws, which were drafted around the year 2000. “The existing law was written for a different time period.

The government is focused on a number of areas as part of the overhaul of India’s IT legislation, including data protection law, increased accountability of social media companies, and delivering a secure internet to consumers, businesses, and the government.

The amended IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 established a new accountability regime for social media businesses in February 2021. The new laws imposed a slew of obligations on the internet behemoths, including holding them more liable for “misuse and abuse” of users and requiring them to appoint officials to handle user complaints and government/court compliance orders.