Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Saturday said the government’s mission is to make the internet “open, safe and trusted” with the amended information technology (IT) rules that came into effect on Friday. Chandrasekhar, a minister of state for electronics and information technology, said intermediaries or social media platforms will have to ensure that “no unlawful content” is posted online, adding that the internet can’t be a party to “deliberate misinformation”.
His statement also assumes significance in the wake of the recent acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk – a self-proclaimed free-speech absolutist – who has spoken of his plans to have fewer limitations on the content posted online. This has triggered concerns that dialogue on the platform which he acquired in a $44 billion deal may deteriorate amid no deterrence on bullying and harassment faced online.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the new rules address the gaps that existed earlier, underlining that intermediary platforms cannot be “misused” to “upload criminal, illegal, inciteful content and misinformation”.
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“Constitutional rights of India’s citizens should be respected by intermediaries, especially articles relating to free speech, liberty and non-discrimination. In order to strengthen accountability between user and intermediary we’ve brought a grievance appellate platform.
As part of the amended IT rules, 2021, which came into effect on Friday, the Centre has made a provision for new government “grievance redressal” panels to hear complaints against content moderation decisions taken by social media companies.
The panel members will be appointed by the government which, activists have said, will amount to giving the government the final say over what content stays up or is taken down, with the power to overrule companies like Meta and Twitter if they remove or refuse to act on posts.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar also spoke of the government’s wish to work on a “partnership model” with all foreign and Indian companies on the internet with the “objective of a safe and trusted internet for all its citizens.”