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Posted at: Oct 21, 2019, 9:00 PM; last updated: Oct 21, 2019, 9:00 PM (IST)

Internet can cause unimaginable disruption to democratic polity: Centre to SC

Govt seeks three months to finalise revised Information Technology Rules to regulate social media
Internet can cause unimaginable disruption to democratic polity: Centre to SC
Photo for representation.

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 21

Noting that Internet has emerged as a “potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity”, the Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the rules governing social media needed to be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries in view of ever growing threats to individual rights and national security.

In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it needed three months to frame guidelines for social media in order to check misuse of technology for criminal activities.

The draft ‘Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018’ was published on its website on December 24 last year and 171 responses were received. Once notified, the new Rules would replace the present Rules related to the intermediaries, i.e. ‘The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011’ which are in place since April 13, 2011.

The affidavit has been filed in response to the top court’s September 24 direction asking the Centre to submit a status report within three weeks on framing of guidelines for social media. The top court is seized of petitions seeking transfer of cases on linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar pending in various high courts to the top court.

The top court is likely to take up the matter on Tuesday.

The free-for-all that existed on social media where anyone can say anything anonymously and get away should come to an end, it had said. “There is no fear…. Suppose somebody says something which is defamatory. Why can’t the affected person ask who originated such a message?” It had wondered while taking a serious note of the “dangerous way technology is developing”.

The Ministry said in view of the complexity involved and the significant impact it entails on the functioning of all stakeholders including netizens, government departments/ministries, social media platforms, messaging platforms, websites and mobile apps etc., it took a “conscious and bonafide decision” to call for further inter-ministerial consultation for framing “effective, robust and comprehensive rules, covering all aspects of matter”.

“The deponent (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) has bonafide belief that a further period of three months would be required for finalising and notifying the final revised rules in accordance with law,” the affidavit read.

The Ministry said, “In the last few years there has been an enormous increase in the use of social media and with lower Internet tariffs, availability of smart devices and last-mile connectivity, more and more people in India are becoming part of the Internet/social media platforms. 

“If on one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms,” it said.

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