Amendment proposals for IT rules miss the main point
Proposed changes to our IT rules represent yet another misguided approach that seems dubious constitutionally and could pave the way for content moderation in violation of fundamental rights.
Last year, India’s ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) and the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) had tried to establish an inter-ministerial appellate body above digital news publications and over-the-top (OTT) platforms. This committee could modify or delete content, as it deemed fit. The Bombay and Madras high courts noted that such an oversight mechanism threatens media independence, and ordered a stay on the operation of this panel. Now, through a proposed amendment to the 2021 IT Rules, MeitY wants to establish a body above social media platforms, which has a similar effect in that it will be able to decide what kind of speech stays up on the internet, what must be taken down, and what gets reinstated. The amendments also seek to impose additional obligations on social media platforms.
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