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The Government has notified new rules to regulate intermediaries and digital media. The rules impose additional obligations on certain social media intermediaries and aim to regulate online content by prescribing a code of ethics and a three-tiered grievance redressal mechanism for publishers.
On 25 February 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) notified the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Rules) in consultation with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). The Rules have been issued pursuant to the government's rule making powers under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) which includes rules in relation to the guidelines to be followed by intermediaries, and blocking of access to content under the IT Act. The Rules supersede the erstwhile Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 (Old Intermediary Guidelines), and considerably expand the scope to impose additional obligations on social media intermediaries and digital media entities.
Changes to the Old Intermediary Guidelines have been in the pipeline for years. In 2018, draft amendments to the Old Intermediary Guidelines were released by MeitY for public consultation (2018 Draft). Since then, Indian courts have discussed issues such as the dissemination of fake news and sexually violent/ explicit content on intermediary platforms, and the traceability of originators of messages or information on messaging platforms, highlighting the need for an updated legal framework that promotes accountability.
At the same time, multiple public interest litigations have been filed before various high courts seeking regulation of online content published by over the top (OTT) platforms. While the industry has adopted various self-regulatory codes to address the MIB's concerns, the government has time and again expressed its dissatisfaction and found ..