Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 (IT Rules 2023)
- Key features of the 2021 Rules (Before amendment of 2023)
- Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023
- Provisions for Online Gaming Intermediary
Key features of the 2021 Rules (Before amendment of 2023)
- Greater Due Diligence on Intermediaries:
- They are required to publish rulers, regulation, privacy policies and user agreements for access or usage of its services.
- The rules also specify restrictions on the types of content that users are allowed to create, upload, and share. Intermediaries have to inform users about these restrictions.
- Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users:
- Intermediaries, on receiving of complaints of contents that exposes private parts, partial nudity, sexual act, impersonation or morphed image of an individual, shall remove or disable access within 24 hours.
- Grievance Officer:
- The rules require intermediaries to designate a grievance officer to address complaints regarding violation of the rules.
- The rules require intermediaries to acknowledge complaints regarding violation of Rules within 24 hours and dispose of complaints within 15 days.
- Appeal Mechanism against decision of grievance officers
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 – notified by MeitY.
- Confers power of Meity to notify a fact check unit of the Central Government that will identify fake or false or misleading online content in respect to any business of the Central Government.
- Social Media Intermediaries (such as Facebook, Twitter) and telecom service providers shall inform the users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information pertaining to central government which has been identified as fake/false/misleading by the fact check unit.
- Violation of these rules can lead to social media intermediaries losing their ‘safe harbour’ immunity.
- Note: “Safe harbour” protects them from litigations against third-party content.
Provisions for Online Gaming Intermediary:
- Defines an online gaming intermediary to mean any intermediary that “enables the users of its computer resource to access one or more online games”.
- Regulations: The earlier rules covering social media intermediaries are still in place, and shall now cover online gaming intermediaries, with a few more clause thrown in:
1. No wagering (or betting) on the outcome of any online game will be allowed.
2. Prohibit online gaming intermediaries:
i. From hosting, an online game which may cause harm to users;
ii. From hosting non-verified online games or
iii. Advertising (or surrogate advertisement) of non-permissible online games or any intermediary offering such an online game.
3. Government may designate an online gaming Self-regulatory body/ bodies for permitting online games.
4. Additional Obligations on online gaming intermediaries in relation to online games involving real money.
i. Displaying a mark of verification by the SRB.
ii. Informing users about the policy of withdrawal on refund of deposit, manner of determination and distribution of winning, fees etc.
iii. Obtaining KYC details of the users.
iv. Not giving credit or enabling financing by third parties to the users.
Significance: On Provisions related to Fact Check
Protects Digital Nagrik from fake or false misleading information about central governments.
Significance: For online Gaming:
- The amendment lays out a comprehensive framework for Online Gaming Ecosystem.
- These rules bring clarity and certainty in terms of policy framework for young Indian startups and innovators in the field of online gaming.
- It addresses the twin challenges of catalyzing and expanding online gaming innovation and at the same time protecting citizens from illegal betting and wagering online.
Criticism: On Provisions related to Fact Check
- No Definition of Fake News: The 2023 rules don’t define what constitutes “fake or misleading” information, nor do they specify qualifications or hearing process for a “fact check unit”.
- Chilling Effect: Unguided power bestowed on the fact check unit of the government to identify fake online content can have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression.
- Bypasses the statutory prescription of section 69A of the IT Act: This provision enables central government or its authorized officers to issue directions for blocking public access of any information through any computer resource. Here the government or authorized officer is required to follow certain processes and safeguards in blocking public access.
- Bypasses Supreme Court Verdict of Shreya Singhal vs Union of India which laid down procedure for blocking content.
- Editor Guild of India (EGI) and Political satirists have also said that this will violate fundamental right to free speech.
Criticism about Online Gaming Provisions:
- Ambiguous Definitions: The definition of online gaming intermediaries still remain very broad and thus lead to ambiguity.
- Flawed Model of Self Regulation:
Legislative uncertainty: Online gaming was not previously regulated under the provisions of the IT Act, 2000.
- A clear parliamentary enactment is necessary, rather than bringing online games under
the IT Act through the rules.