The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) released a draft proposing changes to the year-old Information Technology Rules, 2021, on Thursday. The proposed changes included setting up an appeal committee to review content moderation decisions of social media companies. But the ministry withdrew the draft just hours later.
Officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) said the ministry took down the draft proposal, dated June 1, to “make some changes”, and that a revised set of rules would be uploaded “later”. They declined to divulge the nature of the changes or when the draft would be released again.
In the now-withdrawn draft, the IT ministry called for the creation of one or more grievance appeals committees to evaluate complaints from aggrieved social media users. It noted that such oversight would “provide an alternative” to users who do not agree with the decisions of any social media company or internet intermediary. It said the appellate committees would have to decide on user appeals within 30 days and that platforms would have to comply with its orders.
While “appreciating” proposals in the withdrawn draft that required social media and internet platforms to respect the constitutional rights of Indians, including privacy and due process, digital privacy activists said the clauses were worded vaguely.
Industry experts said the draft did not address critical concerns about certain clauses in the rules, such as one requiring traceability. One of the most contentious rules requires instant messaging apps to reveal the ‘first originator’ of any message on their platform that the government deems problematic. WhatsApp has challenged this rule in the Delhi High Court, while other companies have moved court against other portions of the IT Rules.
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