The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, also known as the new IT Rules 2021, which was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre in February 2021, come into effect from Wednesday (May 26).
It is to be noted that the Indian government had given a three-month window to social media companies like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram and others to comply with these guidelines. As per the new IT Rules 2021, large social media platforms are defined as those having more than 50 lakh registered users.
The new rules make it mandatory for large social media companies to appoint a resident grievance officer as part of a larger grievance redressal mechanism, active monitoring of content shared on their platform and monthly compliance reports for Indian users and self-regulation mechanisms.
Now, as today is May 26 and the deadline for the implementation of the new IT Rules 2021 has ended, lakhs of social media users across India are wondering that whether Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram would get banned in India for failing to comply with the new IT Rules 2021.
You need to know about the subsection 1 of the section 79 of the IT Rules 2021 to have a better understanding in this matter. This has been clearly mentioned in the new IT Rules 2021. “When an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable for such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code”. The section 79 of new IT Rules 2021 gives digital media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp immunity in a way against liability for content posted on their networks, third party information or data.
The new IT Rules 2021 clearly mention that if social media companies fail to comply with the new rules then this legal immunity will be withdrawn and digital media platforms will be part of the legal proceedings, if any. Sub-section 1 of section 79 of the IT Act says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force but subject to the provisions of sub-sections (2) and (3), an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him.” The sub-sections 2 and 3 state that the legal immunity provisions apply if “the function of the intermediary is limited to providing access to a communication system over which information made available by third parties is transmitted or temporarily stored or hosted” and the transmission is not initiated by intermediary and the receiver of the transmission is also not selected by the intermediary.
This means that while the new IT Rules 2021 come into effect from today, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram could at face trouble for failing to comply with the new IT rules but they are not facing any ban for non-compliance.