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Report on Shemaroo

Petition filed against new intermediary and digital media rules before Delhi HC

The court will hear the case on 9 March.

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KOLKATA: Last month, the Centre notified new rules for digital media which caused a stir amid the industry’s online content providers. Now, a petition has been moved before the Delhi high court challenging the new rules under the Information Technology Act to regulate internet intermediaries, over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital news media.

The plea has been filed by the Foundation of Independent Journalism. It will be heard on 9 March by a division bench headed by chief justice DN Patel.

Several journalists, lawyers and activists have decried the rules as an attempt to muzzle freedom of press by laying the ground for tightening executive control over digital media. The Editors Guild of India last week demanded the repeal of these rules.

The government laid down new rules for social media platforms on 25 February, making a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. In a gazette notification, it also specified five million registered users in India as the threshold for significant social media intermediaries.

“Social media platforms have done exceedingly well in terms of business and the number of users, while also empowering ordinary Indians. But it is very important that crores of social media users must be given a proper forum for resolution of their grievances against use and abuse of social media in a time-bound manner,” said union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Each significant social media intermediary would be required to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and a resident grievance officer. All three would be resident Indians. They will also have to publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.

They will also have to give a prior intimation, in cases where they remove/disable access to any information (social media post) on their accord. So, the platforms will now have to communicate to the users, the grounds and reasons for such action and give users adequate opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.

The government also asked the significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging to enable identification of the first originator of the information.

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