Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Kerala HC restrains Centre over new IT Rules


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: New IT Rules

Mains level: Free speech related issues

The Kerala High Court has restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against a legal news portal, for any non-compliance with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

What was the petition?

Three-tier mechanism

  • The petition said Part III of the rules imposed unconstitutional three-tier complaints and adjudication structure on publishers.
  • This administrative regulation on digital news media would make it virtually impossible for small or medium-sized publishers, such as the petitioner, to function.
  • It would have a chilling effect on such entities, the petition said.
  • The creation of a grievance redressal mechanism, through a governmental oversight body (an inter-departmental committee constituted under Rule 14) amounted to excessive regulation, the petitioner contended.

Violation of free speech

  • The petitioner pointed out that Rule 4(2), which makes it mandatory for every social media intermediary to enable tracing of originators of information on its platform, violated Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression).
  • It also deprived the intermediaries of their “safe-harbour protection” under Section 79 of the IT Act.

Violation of Right to Privacy

  • The rules obligate messaging intermediaries to alter their infrastructure to “fingerprint” each message on a mass scale for every user to trace the first originator.
  • This was violative of the fundamental right of Internet users to privacy.

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