Minister of State for Information Technology (IT) Rajeev Chandrasekhar, on Saturday, said that the big-tech companies will be held accountable for everything they do. Chandrashekhar made this statement, during a Twitter Spaces conversation, while speaking about the Billionaire Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover and Twitter’s compliance issue.
The minister, while speaking about Musk’s Twitter takeover, said, “Our policies for the company will not change with change in their ownership. Be it Musk or anybody who would own Twitter, they will still have to comply with the framework that’s been set.”
“Interests of ‘Digital Nagriks’ are at the core of new legislation,” he said while explaining how the latest amendment to IT rules will put more definite due diligence obligations on social media firms so that they ensure no misinformation or unlawful content is posted on their platforms.
Chandrashekhar further added, “Gone are the times when big tech companies could get away. Now they will be held accountable for everything they do.”
Chandrashekhar also said the new rules will deal with non-compliance and under this rule, the organisation will lose immunity.
The government on Friday made amendments to the IT rules, under which it will set up appellate panels to redress grievances that users may have against social media platforms' decision on hosting contentious content.
He further added that the rules also have made it explicit for the intermediary to respect the rights accorded to the Indian citizens.
The minister said that lakhs of messages around unresolved user complaints reflected the "broken" grievance redressal mechanism. He said that while the government will partner with social media companies towards a common goal of ensuring the Internet remains open, safe and trusted for Indians, it will not hesitate to act, crackdown, where the public interest is compromised.
On whether penalties will be imposed on platforms for not complying, he said the government would not like to bring punitive action at this stage but warned that if the situation demands in the future, that could be considered too. The internet is evolving, as will the laws.
"We are not getting to the business of punity, but there is an opinion that there should be punitive penalties for those platforms not following rules...it is an area we have steered clear of, but that is not to say it is not on our mind," he cautioned.
"The obligations of intermediaries earlier was limited to notifying users of the rules but now there will be much more definite obligation on platforms. Intermediaries have to make efforts that no unlawful content is posted on platform," the minister said.
The tighter IT norms raise due diligence and accountability of platforms to fight illegal content proactively (the government has added deliberate misinformation to that list too), with a 72-hour window to take down flagged content.
In a strong message to Big Tech companies, the minister asserted that community guidelines of platforms - regardless of whether they are headquartered in the US, Europe, or elsewhere - cannot undermine the constitutional rights of Indians, when such platforms operate in India.
Just a day after acquiring Twitter, Musk said his social media company will set up a content moderation council and any major decisions related to content or account reinstatements will happen after clearance from the body.
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