The Amendments to the IT Rules 2021


    In News

    Recently,The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has notified amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021).

    About IT Rules, 2021

    • India in 2021 replaced its decade old regulations on SMIs with the IT Rules, 2021 that were primarily aimed at placing obligations on SMIs to ensure an open, safe and trusted internet.
      • It also aims at regulating social media intermediaries (SMIs).

    Need to amend the IT Rules 2021

    • There was a need to ensure that the interests and constitutional rights of netizens are not being contravened by big tech platforms, 
    • There was also a need to strengthen the grievance redressal framework in the Rules, and 
      • Compliance with these should not impact early stage Indian start-ups. 

    Major amendments

    •  The grounds in rule 3(1)(b)(ii) have been rationalised by removing the words ‘defamatory’ and ‘libellous’. Whether any content is defamatory or libellous will be determined through judicial review.
    •  Some of the content categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been rephrased to deal particularly with misinformation, and content that could incite violence between different religious/caste groups.
      • Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. 
        • These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content. The new provision will ensure that the intermediary’s obligation is not a mere formality.
    • Grievance Appellate Committees
      •  Grievance Appellate Committee(s) will be established to allow users to appeal against the inaction of, or decisions taken by intermediaries on user complaints. However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.
    • Relevant rules of the platform
      • The original IT Rules, 2021 obligated the SMIs to merely inform its users of the “rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement” that governed its platforms along with the categories of content that users are prohibited from hosting, displaying, sharing etc. on the platform. 
      • This obligation on the SMIs has now been extended to ensuring that its users are in compliance with the relevant rules of the platform.
    • Respecting Fundamental rights
      • The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.
        • SMIs are supposed to respect all the rights accorded to the citizens under the Constitution, including in the articles 14, 19 and 21.