Summary

The recent amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 brought about a handful of changes in the functioning of the intermediaries with the aim of infusing an element of transparency, accountability and responsibility towards their users.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022 (hereinafter referred to as the “2022 Amendment”) to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in the official gazette on the 28th of October, 2022. The Amendment was notified following a public consultation on the proposed draft of the amendments released in June by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The 2022 Amendment brought about a handful of changes in the functioning of the intermediaries with the aim of infusing an element of transparency, accountability and responsibility towards their users.

The key changes brought by the 2022 Amendment are as follows:

1. Establishment of Grievance Appellate Committee

The Central Government is required to establish a three-member Committee consisting of a Chairperson and two independent members to deal with appeals from the intermediary. An appeal may be filed online to the Committee within 30 days of receiving communication from the Grievance Officer of the intermediary. The Committee is required to employ an online dispute resolution mechanism to resolve the appeal within 30 days from the date of receipt.

2. Disposal of complaint received within 72 hours

The Grievance Officer of the intermediary is requited to resolve a complaint in the nature of a request for removal of information or communication link related to specified content within 72 hours from its reporting.

3. Communication of intermediary’s terms of service to be made in English or in any of the languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution

The Intermediary must use English or any of the languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution to publish and communicate essential information such as terms of service to its users.

4. Duty of intermediary to respect Constitutional Rights of users

The intermediary is under a statutory obligation to respect the rights granted to citizens under the Indian Constitution especially the rights under Article 14,19 and 21.

5. Intermediary’s obligation to enhance accessibility of services

The intermediary is shouldered with the responsibility of taking measures to ensure accessibility of its services to all users along with reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.

6. Revisiting of types of prohibited information

The types of prohibited information have been revised to remove defamatory, libellous content as a criterion and to include content that promotes enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence.

7. Enhanced obligation of intermediaries towards mandating user compliance

The intermediary must inform and publish the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement of its services and is tasked with taking reasonable measures to ensure the users comply with the same.

The changes brought about by the 2022 Amendment are summarised in the following table:

ChangesExisting Rules Prior to the AmendmentRevisions in 2022 Amendment
Establishment of a Grievance Appellate CommitteeNo such provision Provided in Rule 3A:
“3A. Appeal to Grievance Appellate Committee(s).—(1) The Central Government shall, by notification, establish one or more Grievance Appellate Committees…”
Time for disposal of complaint by intermediaryWithin 15 days from reporting of complaint as mentioned in Rule 3(2)
“(i) …dispose of such complaint within a period of fifteen days from the date of its receipt;”
Within 72 hours of reporting of complaint for specified matters as specified in amended Rule 3(2)
“(i) …resolve such complaint
within a period of fifteen days from the date of its receipt;”
Language for communication of terms of use to usersNo specific provision
Rule 3(1)(a)
(a) the intermediary shall prominently publish on its website, mobile based application or both, as the case may be, the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement…”
English or any language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contained in Rule 3(1)(a),(b)
“(a)...the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement in English or any language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution…”
Duty of intermediary to respect the Fundamental Rights of UsersNo specific provisionContained in Rule 2(1)(n)
“(n) the intermediary shall respect all the rights accorded to the citizens under the Constitution, including in the articles 14, 19 and 21.”
Statutory duty of intermediary to ensure compliance of its usersNo statutory duty on behalf of intermediary
Rule 3(1)(a):
“(a) the intermediary shall prominently publish…the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its computer resource by any person;”
Statutory duty as per Rule 3(1)(a)
“(a) the intermediary shall prominently publish …the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement… ensure compliance of the same;”
Duty of intermediary to increase accessibility of its servicesNo specific provisionContained in Rule 2(1)(m)
“(m) the intermediary shall take all reasonable measures to ensure accessibility of its services to users along with reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency;”

Conclusion:

The 2022 Amendment is geared towards creating a safer and more accountable environment for users of digital services, thus imposing on intermediaries a heavier burden of compliance and due diligence. The most significant change, on paper, of the 2022 Amendment is the establishment of the Grievance Appellate Committee for some form of government oversight. The effects of the Amendment can be properly determined only after the Grievance Appellate Committee has been established and its functioning and effectiveness in redressing consumer grievances has been observed.

 

Read the old Information Technology(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021…Here

Read the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022… Here

This post is contributed by Ms Anagha J. Sarma, Intern, Consulting & Strategy Team.


This post is brought to you by BananaIP’s Consulting & Strategy Department

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