This year in February the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules. the Information Technology Rules 2011 were superseded by the Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, which were framed, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act,2000. As per the data gathered, In India, there are 530 million WhatsApp users. While YouTube has 448 million users, Facebook and Instagram each have 410 million and 210 million users, respectively. 

Social Media has grown into an arena for trade and commercial operations in addition to being a medium of entertainment. It has also preserved the fundamental standards for information transmission and provided a platform for individuals to openly express their ideas and beliefs. 

Therefore, in this growing trend of using social media, few rules must be there in order to make social media a secure place to open up and share ideas. So, IT RULES, 2021 came up which intended to provide ordinary users of social media platforms and over-the-top (OTT) platforms with a system for grievance redress and fast resolution through the employment of a Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) who must be a resident of India. Special attention has been paid to protecting women and children from sexual assaults, fake news, and other forms of social media abuse.

On the other hand, OTT platforms, online news, and digital media organisations would be required to adhere to a Code of Ethics. Under the new guidelines, OTT platforms would be referred to as “publishers of online curated content.” They’d have to divide the content into five groups based on age, and apply parental controls for everyone above the age of 13. They must also provide procedures for age verification for adult related content.

Furthermore, three-tiered grievance resolution system has been established. The appointment of a GRO, self-regulatory entities registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to oversee the Code of Ethics, and a Charter for the self-regulating bodies created by MIB are all part of this.

However, the new regulations have been criticized by some as a breach of free expression, the government has emphasized that they allow social media sites to operate freely in India while adhering to the law. The country’s Constitution and the Rule of Law must be followed by all entities. Furthermore, according to Article 19 of the Constitution, the right to free speech and expression is not absolute and is subject to legitimate limitations, particularly when national sovereignty and security are at risk.

The new restrictions were given a three-month grace period for social media intermediaries to comply. On May 26, the government sent a second notice to all social media intermediaries, requesting information on the status of compliance with the new laws that took effect that day. Various social media sites such as Google, LinkedIn did shared details as per the requirements but other sites such as twitter requested for the compliance window to be extended and demanded a collaborative approach from the government to protect public freedom of speech. WhatsApp has launched a lawsuit against the government in the Delhi High Court, alleging that the new restrictions infringed user privacy by breaking the end-to-end encryption in order to identify traceability.  The administration, on the other hand, has maintained that tracking will be necessary only in the event of “extremely serious offences” that endanger India’s sovereignty and integrity. It may also be done without compromising the end-to-end encryption. Companies, on the other hand, will be responsible for developing a technical solution

So, as we know that no freedom is a total freedom. It comes up with some level of restrictions and is not absolute unrestricted. Since the establishment of the Constitution of india, striking the appropriate balance between fundamental rights and determining the rationality of a limitation has been a continual struggle. Therefore, the battle between the governments that want to impose reasonable restrictions and users concerned about data privacy and restrictions on freedom of speech and expression vs the tech giants who own significant amount of huge data  is only going to get more complicated before optimal solutions are found. So, The IT Rules 2021 which preserves digital sovereignty and aim to answer people’ concerns without compromising on their privacy or personal rights should be properly followed by the social media sites which is only the best solution left.  

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