Why in the News?
- Recently, the Government published new rules for social media platforms and digital news outlets, called the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code.
Features of New Guidelines:
- The guidelines had asked all social media platforms to set up a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, which included appointing a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person.
- The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology had also asked these platforms to submit monthly reports on complaints received from users and action taken.
- A third requirement for instant messaging apps was to make provisions for tracking the first originator of a message.
- Failure to comply with any one of these requirements would take away the indemnity provided to social media intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
What is Section 79 of the IT Act and Safe Harbour Regime?
- Section 79 states any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
- This protection, the Act says, shall be applicable if the said intermediary does not in any way initiate the transmission of the message in question, select the receiver of the transmitted message and does not modify any information contained in the transmission.
- This means that as long as a platform acts just as the messenger carrying a message from point A to point B, without interfering in any manner, it will be safe from any legal prosecution brought upon due to the message being transmitted. This is known as the Safe Harbour Regime.
- The protection accorded under Section 79, however, is not granted if the intermediary, despite being informed or notified by the government or its agencies, does not immediately disable access to the material under question.
- The intermediary must not tamper with any evidence of these messages or content present on its platform, failing which it loses its protection under the Act.