From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Read the attached story
Mains level : IT Rules 2021
The Centre told the Delhi High Court that social media platforms must be held accountable for “subjugating and supplanting fundamental rights like the right to freedom of speech and expression, otherwise the same would have dire consequences for any democratic nation”.
What is the news?
- The Ministry’s submission came in response to a petition filed by a Twitter user whose account was suspended by the microblogging site for alleged violations of platform guidelines.
- The Twitter user said his account was suspended for the reason of “ban evasion” (creating an account when a similar account was earlier banned).
- The complainant said Twitter suspended his accounts without giving him an opportunity for a hearing.
- The Centre said when a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI) such as Twitter takes a decision to suspend the whole or part of a user’s account on its own due to its policy violation, it should afford a reasonable opportunity to the user to defend his side.
- The exception, the Centre said, where the SSMIs could take such a decision include certain scenarios such as rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material, bot activity or malware, terrorism-related content etc.
- If an SSMI fails to comply with the above, then it may amount to a violation of IT Rules 2021, the Centre clarified.
- No platform or intermediary will be allowed to infringe upon the citizens’ rights, including but not limited to Articles 14, 19 and 21 guaranteed under the Constitution of India under the guise of violation of the platform’s policies unless it constitutes a violation of extant law in force.
What are the IT Rules 2021?
- The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 are broadly termed as IT Rules 2021.
Why is this a matter of concern?
- Social media platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and should not take down the account itself or completely suspend the user account in all cases.
- Taking down the whole information or the user account should be a last resort.
- Only in cases where the majority of the contents/posts/tweets on an account are unlawful, the platform may take the extreme step of taking down the whole information or suspending the whole account.
- Hence it can be argued that undue discontinuance of social media accounts of any person is violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21.