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‘No proposal with MEITY to appoint a regulator for social media

The Centre has not conducted any study regarding the impact of its control over social media.

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KOLKATA: Amid the babel over increased regulation of social media in the country, the government has revealed there is no proposal with the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) to appoint a regulator for social media.

“In order to provide enhanced user safety as also accountability of social media platforms, government has released the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 under the Act (IT Act) that specifies the due diligence to be followed by all the intermediaries including the social media intermediaries. The social media platforms are enjoined to develop a robust grievance redressal system,” Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Parliament today.

When asked if the Centre has conducted any study regarding the impact of its control over social media, Prasad stated that no such study has been undertaken. However, he reiterated his oft-mentioned remark that the government welcomes criticism, dissent and also the rights of people to ask questions on social media.

“This needs to be acknowledged that the fundamental right of speech and expression under article 19(1) is also subject to reasonable restrictions under article 19(2) of the Constitution which can be imposed in the interest of security, safety and sovereignty of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc,” he noted.

Prasad mentioned that it is equally important that social media should not be abused or misused to defame, promote terrorism, rampant violence and compromise the dignity of women. It is for these challenges that the intermediaries are expected to remove or disable content as and when brought to the knowledge of  intermediaries either through a court order or through a notice by appropriate government or its agency or when directed under section 69A of the IT Act 2000, following due process of law, he detailed.

On 25 February, the Centre notified new, stricter guidelines for social media intermediaries which enables setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms and makes these platforms more pliable in assisting government agencies in investigation as well as taking down unlawful or fake content. Experts, while lauding the new "well-intended" rules, noted that these guidelines could undermine the principles of open and accessible Internet and violate the right to privacy and free speech of users, particularly in the absence of robust data protection law.

It's worth recalling that the new rules came close on the heels of a tussle between the government and Twitter over removal of certain content related to the ongoing farmers’ protests.

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