Failure to comply with new rules: Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp run the risk of losing legal immunity
Intermediaries like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. run the risk of losing immunity from criminal prosecution under the Information Technology Act if they fail to comply with the new guidelines on intermediaries notified by the government on February 25, which will come into force on May 26.
The government had given these companies three months to comply with the new rules, but as of Monday, no company has done so. Instead, under the umbrella of industry associations, they asked for a six-month extension to comply, as the pandemic crippled their normal office work.
The new rules require intermediaries like WhatsApp to identify the first author of messages deemed malicious by the government, while others like Facebook and Twitter must remove illegal content within 36 hours of the report.
The revised social media rules were notified on February 25, and for large intermediaries the implementation was expected to come into effect after three months. Social media company with over 5 million users in India is described as a significant intermediary.
The new rules also require important social media intermediaries like Facebook, Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, etc. must appoint an India-based compliance officer who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the law and rules.
A nodal contact person should be designated to ensure 24/7 coordination with law enforcement. Another resident complaints officer should be appointed to perform the functions referred to in the complaints mechanism.
The grievance officer will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within fifteen days of receipt. Social media companies must set up a voluntary verification mechanism, so that fake accounts are not created on the platforms. Also, large social media companies should have a physical address in India.
These new regulations were developed under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
But several associations representing these large social media companies, including IAMAI, Ficci, Nasscom, among others, have written to the government that major social media intermediaries may be granted an additional six months from the current deadline. of compliance. Reasoning in favor of the extension, Nasscom said the Department of Electronics and Informatics could take monthly progress reports to ensure deadlines are met by relevant intermediaries.
The associations stressed that some of the obligations should be difficult to meet in a remote work context, which was made necessary given the unforeseen surge in Covid-19 cases in India, the resulting restrictions on movement. people and the temporary closure of physical office spaces.
In addition, some of the changes, particularly those requiring product and process changes – such as transparency of advertising, measures to trace the first sender of messages and the creation of the office of the Chief Compliance Officer, would require more. time for compliance.
The government is expected to respond to a call for the extension on Tuesday.