An industry group called Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) representing US-based Big Tech firms have urged India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to make changes in the proposed amendments to the country’s new IT Rules, 2021 which would “negate the government’s commitment to ease of doing business”.
In a letter to the IT Ministry, the coalition that represents Apple, Meta, Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Spotify, among others, said that the proposed changes in the new IT Rules 2021 would affect continuity in business operations for all intermediaries that have made significant investments in the country in regard to technology, workforce, and other resources.
The coalition said that intermediaries, as conceived under Section 79 of the IT Act, only provide a technology platform or a computer resource as a service to the user.
“It is ultimately the user who determines the nature of content to be communicated or transmitted on the platforms/computer resources operated by the intermediaries. Given this, it may be more beneficial to impose mandates prohibiting the dissemination of certain types of content on the user itself,” it argued.
The republished draft by the IT Ministry has revealed a plan to form an appeals panel that can reverse content moderation decisions by Big Tech companies. The new IT rules also require big social media platforms to help the government trace the originator of messages in special cases.
The coalition said that the MeitY should allow industry to adopt a self-regulatory grievance redressal mechanism as an alternative to the Grievance Advisory Committee (GAC).
“An industry-led self-regulatory mechanism will enable businesses to adopt best practices and ensure long term solutions by identifying trends and gaps. In this regard, we request MeitY for a period of at least six months to implement such a self-regulatory mechanism,” the group said.
The letter to the IT Ministry came as Indonesia, a country with nearly 28 crore population, forced Meta Platforms and Google to abide by new rules for Big Tech which gives authorities the power to block social media applications and online sites.
Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp signed up for new rules before the Wednesday deadline.
The AIC said that it further recommend these new requirements – deadlines of 24 hours to acknowledge requests to block or suspend a user, or remove information relating to Rule 3(1)(b), and would shorten complaint redress periods to 72 hours for certain content – be limited to intermediary services that have a demonstrated propensity for virality.
“These obligations should only attach to services or parts of services that enable sharing of material to all end users, and where the intermediary reasonably knows, based on past experience, that there is a propensity for material to be amplified or accessed virally on the service,” the letter argued.
The coalition aimed to draw the IT Ministry’s attention to the fact that a single instance of non-compliance by the intermediary can lead to loss of safe harbour protections under the IT Act.
“We request MeitY to consider providing clarity on the manner in which ‘due diligence, privacy and transparency’ expectations of users must be met over and above existing compliances already present in Indian law,” it added.