Open to changing IT rules in future: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The Economic Times, June 23, 2022

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is open to changing the Information Technology Rules, 2021 in future as the ecosystem develops further, Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Thursday.

Addressing an open house discussion and consultation with various stakeholders on the proposed changes to the IT Rules, Chandrasekhar said the rules would always keep evolving.

“I have said all along that these are constantly going to evolve in consultation with the stakeholders involved. So, even if we agree that there will be an appellate tribunal model to the appellate committee model today, there is nothing that says that we will not be able to change it into a self-regulatory or self-regulated mechanism one year down the road or six months,” he said.

Companies should not, however, cite higher costs of compliance to not follow the rules, Chandrasekhar said, adding that compliance would always add to costs rather than no compliance norms at all.

“There’s no question of you saying, as a platform, that this does not align with my own guidelines and rules. That is completely clear. There is no dispute that you have to act on it,” the minister said, adding that the government’s perspective was to ensure 4 boundary conditions for policy and rulemaking around the internet.

“The government’s perspective is to ensure 4 boundary conditions for policy & rule making around the Internet – that is openness, safety & trust, accountability and complete compliance to the Indian Constitution & legal provisions,” Chandrasekhar said.

The IT ministry’s open house consultation on the Rules, chaired by Chandrasekhar, was attended by over 100 participants.

During the discussion, several stakeholders raised concerns about the requirement for social media intermediaries to acknowledge and resolve user concerns within 72 hours, while others suggested that the ministry should clarify how the grievance appellate committees would work.

“The IT ministry should come up with a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis highlighting the impact of the rules on different stakeholders, including domestic startups, and invite feedback. This is a standard practice in advanced jurisdictions,” said Amol Kulkarni, director, of research at CUTS, a policy research group.

Homegrown social media platform Koo meanwhile said it fully supported the amendments and recommended that the appellate committee be established.

“If for any reason the appellate committee is not created, a single industry-wide SRB (single resolution board) working under a Code of Conduct set up by MeitY is recommended. As the only Indian thoughts and opinion platform, Koo volunteers to anchor and coordinate the creation of the SRB and an Indian Code of Conduct,” said Rajneesh Jaswal, head of public policy at the intermediary.

Earlier this month, the IT ministry had republished a draft of proposed changes to technology and social media regulations, which it had said would aim at providing “more effective grievance redressal,” and plug “infirmities and gaps’ in the existing regulations.

The revised notification, which came a week after a similar draft was pulled down, would address challenges thrown up by the expanding digital ecosystem as well as gaps in the current regulations, especially with respect to the “Big Tech platform”, the ministry had said.

On Thursday, the ministry asked all stakeholders to submit a written copy of their suggestions to the ministry by July 6.
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