The safe harbour provisions protect the enterprises and people who provide an infrastructure and act as intermediaries from the liabilities from the acts committed by the third parties who use this infrastructure for their own benefit in the online world. For example, the Cloud Service Providers (the, ‘CSPs’) are not held liable for the illegal data which is stored on their servers, the Internet Service Providers (the, ‘ISPs’) are not held liable for the unlawful acts committed by their subscribers, the e-commerce marketplaces are not held liable for the spurious goods sold by the sellers on their platform, and social media platforms are not held liable for the defamatory content on their platforms.
These safe harbour safeguards emanate from Information and Technology Act, 2000 (the, ‘IT Act’) and the corresponding rules. The safe harbour rules have evolved considerably since their enactment either through legislative/ administrative enactments and/or notifications, or by judicial interpretations.
Initially, when the IT Act was enacted, it did not contain any safe harbour provision. Initially, the scope and ambit of the definition of the ‘intermediaries’ was very narrow and was restricted only to those entities who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits any electronic message or provides any service with respect to that message. The intermediaries which were covered in this narrow scope were only protected from the offences under the IT Act.
The limited protection extended to these entities came into light in 2004 when a CD containing an obscene clip was posted to be sold by a seller on an online platform called bazee.com. This resulted in both the seller (Mr. Ravi Raj) and the CEO of the platform (Mr. Avinash Bajaj) being arrested and both were charged with the same offense. The lacuna in law was imminent, a platform/intermediary could be implicated for the material it did not generate but only provided a platform to publish/circulate. This threatened the future of ecommerce ecosystem. Therefore, the IT Act was amended and Information and Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 (the, ‘ITA Act’) was introduced, which widened the scope of ‘intermediaries’ and the Safe Harbour protection.
The Digital India programme has now become a movement which is empowering common Indians with the power of technology. The extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet etc. has also enabled many social media platforms to expand their footprints in India. Common people are also using these platforms in a very significant way. Some portals, whichpublish analysis about social media platforms and which have not been disputed, have reported the following numbers as user base of major social media platforms in India:
WhatsApp users: 53 Crore
YouTube users: 44.8 Crore
Facebook users: 41 Crore
Instagram users: 21 Crore
Twitter users: 1.75 Crore
These social platforms have enabled common Indians to show their creativity, ask questions, be informed and freely share their views, including criticism of the Government and its functionaries. The Government acknowledges and respects the right of every Indian to criticizeand disagree as an essential element of democracy. India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India.
Proliferation of social media on one hand empowers the citizens then on the other hand gives rise to some serious concerns and consequences which have grown manifold in recent years. These concerns have been raised from time to time in various forums including in the Parliament and its committees, judicial orders and in civil society deliberations in different parts of country. Such concerns are also raised all over the world and it is becoming an international issue.
Of late some very disturbing developments are observed on the social media platforms. Persistent spread of fake news has compelled many media platforms to create fact-check mechanisms. Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. Misuse of social media for settling corporate rivalries in blatantly unethical manner has become a major concern for businesses. Instances of use of abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments through platforms are growing.
Over the years, the increasing instances of misuse of social media by criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies. These include inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, financial frauds, incitement of violence, public order etc.
It was found that currently there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. Lack of transparency and absence of robust grievance redressal mechanism have left the users totally dependent on the whims and fancies of social media platforms. Often it has been seen that a user who has spent his time, energy and money in developing a social media profile is left with no remedies in case that profile is restricted or removed by the platform without giving any opportunity to be heard.
Evolution of Social Media and Other Intermediaries:
If we notice the evolution of social media intermediaries, they are no longer limited to playing the role of pure intermediary and often they become publishers. These Rules are a fine blend of liberal touch with gentle self-regulatory framework. It works on the existing laws and statues of the country which are applicable to content whether online or offline. In respect of news and current affairs publishers are expected to follow the journalistic conduct of Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act, which are already applicable to print and TV. Hence, only a level playing field has been proposed.
Rationale and Justification for New Guidelines:
These Rules substantially empower the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievances and command accountability in case of infringement of their rights. In this direction, the following developments are noteworthy:
The Supreme Court in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) vide order dated 11/12/2018 had observed that the Government of India may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
The Supreme Court vide order dated 24/09/2019 had directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to apprise the timeline in respect of completing the process of notifying the new rules.
There was a Calling Attention Motion on the misuse of social media and spread of fake news in the Rajya Sabha and the Minister had conveyed to the house on 26/07/2018, the resolve of the Government to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms accountable under the law. He had conveyed this after repeated demands from the Members of the Parliament to take corrective measures.
The Ad-hoc committee of the Rajya Sabha laid its report on 03/02/2020 after studying the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as a whole and recommended for enabling identification of the first originator of such contents.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) prepared draft Rules and invited public comments on 24/12/2018. MEITY received 171 comments from individuals, civil society, industry association and organizations. 80 counter comments to these comments were also received. These comments were analyzed in detail and an inter-ministerial meeting was also held and accordingly, these Rules have been finalized, and are now called the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
India is the world's largest open Internet society. The Digital India has enabled the empowerment of the common man. The extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet etc. has also enabled many platforms to expand their footprints in India.
These platforms are associated with a bevy of benefits and risks; and they give rise to new concerns, which have been raised from time to time in various forums including in the Parliament of India and its committees, judicial orders and in civil society deliberations in different parts of India. Prime among them is abuse of social media to share morphed images of women and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women and therefore, it is important to prevent the dissemination of such content.
The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules') has been enacted by the Central Government under the powers conferred to it by Sections 69A(2), 79(2)(c) and 87 of the Information Technology Act, with thorough coordination with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The formulation of these Rules is in response to the growing criticism against the government, while it recognizes the right to criticize and disagree as an essential element of democracy. It aims to provide a robust complaint mechanism for social media and OTT platform users to address their grievances, a mechanism earlier inexistent.
The proposed framework has been quoted to be progressive, liberal and contemporaneous, as it lays a special emphasis on the protection of women against the progression of sexual offences on social media. It emphasizes on the need of social media intermediaries and online content providers, whether for entertainment or informative purposes, to strictly comply with the Constitution and domestic laws of India. It extends its approach to instill a sense of accountability against misuse and abuse by social media users and is the first of its kind to bring social media use under the regulatory framework of the Information Technology Act.
These rules have been in light of the recent run-down on the OTT platforms by the government, which have been actively, rather vehemently, lobbying for stronger and more stringent regulations in place. However, contrary to such a view, as per the PIB, the Rules have been formulated keeping in mind the importance of free speech and journalistic and creative freedoms. Regardless of the political connotations, the enactment of these Rules puts India at par with international regimes on digital media regulation, providing a more comprehensive and holistic protection to its users.
Obligation of Due Diligence on Intermediaries
General Guidelines for All Intermediaries
These general guidelines extent their scope over all intermediaries, including social media intermediaries as well as significant social media intermediaries. Rule 2(1)(z) omits from the scope of social media intermediaries those intermediaries that facilitate commercial or business transactions, provide access to networks, search-engines and certain other types as specified.
Classification of Intermediaries - The 2011 Rules regulated "intermediaries" without any classification or distinction between said intermediaries and in terms of their user base or the content hosted on their platform; however, the 2021 Rules classify the regulated entities into the following types:
Social media intermediary with less than 50 lakh registered Indian users;
Significant social media intermediary ("SSMI") with more than 50 lakh registered Indian users;
Publisher of news and current affairs content including news aggregators;
Publisher of online curated content which covers all online streaming platforms including Over-the-Top ('OTT') platforms.
Due Diligence: Rule 4 enlists certain due diligence obligations of an intermediary, which include the duty to publish their rules and regulations, privacy policies and user agreements for access, either on its website and/or application, to allow its users to access the same. The material so published must crystalize the user's responsibility not to "host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share" any form of information which:
Belongs to another person
Is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, pedophilic, invasive of one's privacy, libelous, or inconsistent to the laws of the land
Is dangerous for minors
Results in the infringement of any intellectual property right
Is deceiving or misleading regarding the origin of the message
Impersonates another person
Hampers the integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of the country, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or results in the incitement of any cognizable offence
Contains any software virus or any program designed to corrupt or interrupt the functionality of any computer resource
Or is patently false and untrue, regardless of its form is published or in order to mislead or harass a person.
Rule 4 also enunciates with regard to the umbrella of the safe harbour provisions that are articulated under Section 79 of The Information Technology Act, 2000, i.e. if the intermediaries observe legal due diligence on their part, they will be entitled to safe harbour protections from liability in relation to any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by them insofar as they also meet the content neutrality conditions under the Act. The due diligence to be observed by intermediaries includes:
blocking access to unlawful information within 36 hours upon an order from the Court, or the government;
and retaining information collected for the registration of a user for 180 days after cancellation or withdrawal of registration. Intermediaries are required to report cybersecurity incidents and share related information with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team;
No such order is required when a complaint is received about sexual imagery wherein the intermediary must take down such content within 24 hours of the receipt of the complaint; Intermediaries are also required to provide any information under their control or possession, within 72 hours of receipt of an order in this regard, to a government agency for investigation, detection or prevention of cyber security incidents or offences under any law.
Transparency - An SSMI will be subjected to a greater standard of transparency and accountability towards their users. They shall have to fulfil by publishing six-monthly transparency reports, where they have to outline how they deal with requests for content removal, how they deploy automated tools to filter offensive content, and so on. Other requirements under this transparency principle include giving notice to users whose content has been disabled, allowing them to contest such removal, etc.
Chief Compliance Officer - An SSMI is further required to be in compliance with additional obligations including the appointment of a chief compliance officer who will be liable for the failure of an intermediary to observe due diligence and a nodal contact person (who should be available 24*7) to ensure compliance with orders of courts and to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and is also required to establish a physical contact address in India.
The Delhi High Court has established guidelines in accordance with the IT Rules and its provisions aforementioned which are to be followed by courts while dealing with cases related to the removal of objectionable content from the internet to ensure removal of such offensive material at the earliest, along with limiting access to and redistribution of said material.
In the case of X v. Union of India and Others the Court had to deal with a matter in which a woman had her photographs and images that she had posted on her private social media accounts on 'Facebook' and 'Instagram' have been taken without her knowledge or consent and have been unlawfully posted on a pornographic website by some miscreants and despite court orders, the content could not be removed in entirety from the world-wide-web and "errant parties merrily continued" to re-post and redirect the same to other sites.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani, in his judgement began with a poignant remark, i.e. "The internet never sleeps ; and the internet never forgets!" The Court relied on various judgements across different jurisdictions to paint a more coherent picture of the state of governance when it comes to regulation of offensive content. It relied on the judgement in X. vs. Twitter Inc. where the Supreme Court of New South Wales stated the following: "Where a third party such as Twitter comes into possession of confidential information and is put on notice of the character of the information and the circumstances in which it was unlawfully obtained, it becomes subject to an equitable obligation of confidence. It is liable to be restrained from publishing the information." "...there is a public interest in making the proposed orders; in demonstrating that wrongful conduct will be remedied as effectively as can be achieved; and in ensuring that the plaintiff's rights are respected to the extent that it is possible to do so. The plaintiff should not be left without a remedy."
Similarly, in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. vs. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Mario Costeja González it was held that"the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person's name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful."
And finally, the High Court, referred to Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek vs. Facebook Ireland Limited in which it was categorically stated that "in order to ensure that the host provider at issue prevents any further impairment of the interests involved, it is legitimate for the court having jurisdiction to be able to require that host provider to block access to the information stored, the content of which is identical to the content previously declared to be illegal, or to remove that information, irrespective of who requested the storage of that information."
The Court followed the following judgements with a reference to judicial decisions within India itself, including Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India, ABC vs. DEF & Ors. and YouTube LLC & Anr. vs. Geeta Shroff. It relied on the judgement laid down under Swami Ramdev & Ans. vs. Facebook, Inc. & Ors. by the Delhi High Court itself, saying: "The removal and disablement has to be complete in respect of the cause over which this Court has jurisdiction. It cannot be limited or partial in nature, so as to render the order of this Court completely toothless."
With the help of the aforementioned judicial decisions, the Delhi High Court proceeded to lay down the following guidelines for removal of offensive content
the court may issue a direction to the website or online platform on which the offending content is hosted, to remove such content from the website or online platform, forthwith and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the court order. Since this timeframe is mandated in Rule 3(2)(b) of the 2021 Rules read with Rule 10 of the 2009 Rules for other similar kinds of offensive content;
A direction should also be issued to the website or online platform on which the offending content is hosted to preserve all information and associated records relating to the offending content, so that evidence in relation to the offending content is not vitiated;
A direction should also be issued by the court to the search engine(s) as the court may deem appropriate, to make the offending content non-searchable by 'de-indexing' and 'dereferencing' the offending content;
The directions issued must also mandate the concerned intermediaries, whether websites/online platforms/search engine(s), to endeavour to employ pro-active monitoring by using automated tools, to identify and remove or disable access to any content which is 'exactly identical' to the offending content;
Directions should also be issued to the concerned law enforcement agency/ies, such as the jurisdictional police, to obtain from the concerned website or online platform all information and associated records, including all unique identifiers relating to the offending content such as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), account ID, handle name, Internet Protocol address and hash value of the actual offending content along-with the metadata, subscriber information, access logs and such other information;
The court must direct the aggrieved party to furnish to the law enforcement agency all available information that the aggrieved party possesses relating to the offending content;
The aggrieved party should also be permitted, on the strength of the court order passed regarding specific offending content, to notify the law enforcement agency to remove the offending content from any other website, online platform or search engine;
The court may also direct the aggrieved party to make a complaint on the National Cyber-Crime Reporting Portal
Most importantly, the court must refer to the provisions of section 79(3)(a) and (b) read with section 85 of the IT Act and Rule 7 of the 2021 Rules, whereby an intermediary would forfeit the exemption from liability enjoyed by it under the law if it were to fail to observe its obligations for removal/access disablement of offending content despite a court order to that effect.
Notifications provided to the User: Apart from merely publishing such obligations, the intermediary must notify the user that non-compliance with the above mentioned may result in the termination of their access or usage rights. Also, these rules and regulations, privacy policies or user agreements may be subject to periodical amendments, which ought to be notified to the users in due time.
Enforcement Action to be Undertaken: Intermediaries are amenable to halt the hosting, storage or publication of any information prohibited by law, in the interest of national sovereignty, integrity, security, etc., as prescribed under Rule 4(1)(d), on the knowledge of the same through an order of a court of competent jurisdiction or a Government notification. The intermediary has been provided a strict time limit of thirty-six (36) hours to remove or restrict access to such information. Following the removal of such information, the evidence collected must be preserved for one hundred and eighty (180) days for investigative purposes. Further, the process has been prescribed under Rule 4, with respect to the intermediaries' duty to fully cooperate with Government and law enforcement agencies. In order to address the complaints raised by users or victims, the intermediaries must appoint a Grievance Officer, whose details must be made public, who would acknowledge and resolve such complaints within a period of one month.
Additional Compliance Measures for Significant Social Media Intermediaries
Due Diligence: A peculiar feature about the Rules is that it creates a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. The demarcation is based on the user size and once it has been defined through the notification of the Government, it would act as the threshold between the two. The reason behind this is clarified through Rule 5 which provides additional compliance measures for significant social media intermediaries due to the large volume of users and content that they process. Barring the criteria of the user size, the Government can prescribe the provisions of Rule 5 on any other intermediary as well through a notification. The following due diligence ought to be observed by such intermediaries within three months of publication of these rules:
Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer, assuming the responsibility to ensure compliance and oversight of the functions of significant intermediaries
Appointment of a nodal person of contact, who would act as a link between law enforcement agencies
Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer, whose responsibilities would lay parallel to that of the Officer appointed under Rule 4(1)(n)
Publishing the compliance report on a periodical basis of six months, containing the details and contents of complaints handled and information removed or interrupted by intermediaries in pursuit of their monitoring activities
In order to facilitate the processing of complaints, with respect to the violations mentioned under this Rule, an appropriate mechanism shall be developed by the significant intermediary under Rule 5(6). In such a process, the intermediary must notify the complainant of the extent of action taken.
First Originator: Rule 5(2) provides an additional responsibility on significant social media intermediaries involved in providing messaging services to assist the law enforcement agencies to identify and track the first originator of any contentious or problematic information. This can only be executed through an order of a competent court or the Competent Authority under Section 69 of the Act. This power can only be exercised in order to curb any offence threatening the integrity or security of the State, inciting the commission of rape, child sexual abuse or other grievous offences. However, this may not be resorted to on the availability of less intrusive means and must be employed as a measure of last resort.
Special Measures for Sexual Offences: Other means have been provided to significant intermediaries in order to curb the commission or instigation of the offences of rape or child sexual abuse, such as under Rule 5(4). Such intermediaries must deploy certain technology-based measured to promptly identify any material that may depict or simulate such offences. This must be done in the absence of any bias or discrimination, with the highest regard to privacy and free speech.
Voluntary Verification of Users: Users of significant social media intermediaries must be provided a facility to voluntarily verify themselves under Rule 5(7). The verification can take place on the basis of their number or account and would provide the user with a visible mark of verification. This method to regulate the users has been undertaken to eliminate the misuse of these services and provides a greater level of surveillance over their activities.
Notification to Originators on Removal of Information: In the situation that a significant intermediary has removed or restricted access to any information or data, they must ensure that the originator is made aware of the same, including the grounds for such action, after providing them a reasonable opportunity. Further, Rule 5(8) provides that this process must be overseen by the Resident Grievance Officer.
Procedure and Safeguards for Digital/Online Media
Digital media, as defined under Rule 2(1)(k), represents any digitized content transmittable through the internet or other networks and includes the same content as stored or transmitted by intermediaries as well as publishers of news or online curated content. It includes:
news and current affairs publishers,
intermediaries enabling the transmission of news and current affairs,
online curated content publishers, and
intermediaries enabling the transmission of online curated content,
which operate in India and conduct their business activities by making content available in India, targeting Indian users. However, these following rules applicable to such entities would only come into force after the lapse of a three month period from the publication of these rules.
An Online Grievance Portal, established by the Ministry within three months of the commencement of the rules, would act as the central repository for accepting and disposing of grievances, with respect to the Code of Ethics, as per Rule 9(1). In pursuance to this, the Rules provides a three-tiered grievance mechanism, consisting of:
Level I: Self-regulation by the applicable entity
Level II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities
Level III: Oversight mechanism by the Central Government
Level I: Under Rule 9(4), the applicable entity would be informed of the grievance and encouraged to address it themselves, while keeping the complainant and the Grievance Portal in the loop. In exercise of such a power, the applicable entity is required to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer, who would be governed by the Code of Ethics. The applicable entity is to classify the online curated content that it transmits, granting it with an appropriate certificate, as per the Schedule. The certification may take place on the basis of the content, its impact, target audience, etc. and must be displayed in a conspicuous place, allowing the users to be notified of the same before accessing the content.
Level II: If the procedure under the first level does not take place within 15 days, the matter would escalate with the appeal of the complaint to a Self-regulating Body, of which the entity is a member. Such bodies ought to be independently constituted by such entities or their association and headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court. This body would provide guidance on the Code of Ethics and decide on the grievances passed on from the first level. For the enforcement of such decisions, a self-regulating body can issue warnings, censoring, require an apology, reclassify ratings of online curated content, make appropriate modifications in the content descriptor, or refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism under Rule 12.
Level III: In case the Self-regulating bodies fail to offer any solace to the complainant, they have the last resort of the Oversight Mechanism of the Central Government for a resolution, under Rule 12. Such a measure would be coordinated by the Ministry, who would constitute an Inter-Departmental Committee for addressing grievances, under Rule 13. This committee would consist of representatives from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Law and Justice, and other relevant Ministries as mentioned. The purpose of this Committee is to obtain a holistic and all-encompassing view on the violations under the Rules. The violations may arise through grievances of Level I and II, on a suo motu basis, or those referred by the Ministry. Similar powers granted under Rule 11(5) would be applicable, including the right to initiate the procedure under Rule 14. This allows the Committee to take action to ascertain the creator of violative content and block the same content.
Code of Ethics
The underlying thread that binds the whole Rules together is the Code of Ethics, mentioned under the Appendix. This spans over News and Current Affairs, Online Curated Content and Advertisements.
Online Curated Content
Providing a comprehensive and an in-depth take on regulating online curated content, the Code makes reservation for the multi-racial and multi-religious sphere of India, where due caution and respect ought to be paid in the depiction of their activities, beliefs or practices. It classifies content on the basis of its target audience, assigning a:
'U' rating for content suitable for children and people of all ages
'U/A 7+' for content that can only be viewed by a person below the age of 7 years with parental guidance
'U/A 13+' which requires parental guidance for viewers below the age of 13 years
'U/A 16+' for persons below 16 years requiring parental guidance, and
'A' for content solely reserved for viewing by adults
Further classifications may be made on the basis of themes and messages, violence, sex, nudity, drug and substance abuse, etc. These classification ratings must be displayed in a conspicuous and unambiguous manner and place, allowing the user to be aware and informed. Provisions for access control mechanisms, such as parental locks, ought to be made for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and in spirit of the same, establishing a reliable verification mechanism of the age of the viewer for content rated 'A'.
The introduction of the concept of tracking the first originator under Rule 5(2) has been perceived as rather contentious and worrisome. It enables significant social media intermediaries providing messaging services to allow the enforcement mechanism to access the originator of any information. This is attempted towards curbing the spread of fake news and illegal activities taking place over messaging applications. However, cyber experts fear that this would eventually result in the overriding of the end-to-end encryption, allowing for the formation of a surveillance state. This may result in a major privacy breach, which most messaging applications wear on their sleeve as a badge of honor. The authority of tracking the originator can also be enforced in order to prevent or investigate into an offence relating to the sovereignty, integrity and security of the State. What the Rules fail to identify is the unimaginable scope of misuse of such a wide and discretionary power.
In addition to this, members of the media fraternity emphasize on the Rule's implementation to dissolve the freedom of speech. While analyzing the grievance redressal mechanism, the executive has been authorized to rule over the suitability of content published by the media through the Oversight Mechanism, an unprecedented move that may be perceived as ultra vires of the Constitution. The inter-ministerial committee of bureaucrats have been granted the authority to adjudicate on matters relating to free speech and journalistic freedoms, which may in turn prove not to be conducive for the same.
Analyzing the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, by PRS India
Key Features of the Rules
· Social media intermediaries, with registered users in India above a notified threshold, have been classified as significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs). SSMIs are required to observe certain additional due diligence such as appointing certain personnel for compliance, enabling identification of the first originator of the information on its platform under certain conditions, and deploying technology-based measures on a best-effort basis to identify certain types of content.
· The Rules prescribe a framework for the regulation of content by online publishers of news and current affairs content, and curated audio-visual content.
· All intermediaries are required to provide a grievance redressal mechanism for resolving complaints from users or victims. A three-tier grievance redressal mechanism with varying levels of self-regulation has been prescribed for publishers.
Key Issues and Analysis
· The Rules may be going beyond the powers delegated under the Act in certain cases, such as where they provide for the regulation of significant social media intermediaries and online publishers, and require certain intermediaries to identify the first originator of the information.
· Grounds for restricting online content are overbroad and may affect freedom of speech.
· There are no procedural safeguards for requests by law enforcement agencies for information under the possession of intermediaries.
· Requiring messaging services to enable the identification of the first originator of information on its platform may adversely affect the privacy of individuals.
Intermediaries are entities that store or transmit data on behalf of other persons, and include telecom and internet service providers, online marketplaces, search engines, and social media sites. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) was amended in 2008 to provide an exemption to intermediaries from liability for any third party information. Following this, the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 were framed under the IT Act to specify the due diligence requirements for intermediaries to claim such exemption. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified on February 25, 2021, to replace the 2011 Rules. Key additions under the 2021 Rules include additional due diligence requirements for certain social media intermediaries, and a framework for regulating the content of online publishers of news and current affairs, and curated audio-visual content. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology noted that the changes were necessitated due to widespread concerns around: (i) prevalence of child pornography and content depicting sexual violence, (ii) spread of fake news, (iii) misuse of social media, (iv) content regulation in case of online publishers including OTT platforms and news portals, (v) lack of transparency and accountability from digital platforms, and (vi) rights of users of digital media platforms.,, The validity of the 2021 Rules have been challenged in various High Courts.,
· Due diligence by intermediaries: Under the IT Act, an intermediary is not liable for the third-party information that it holds or transmits. However, to claim such exemption, it must adhere to the due diligence requirements under the IT Act and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (which replace the earlier 2011 Rules). Under the 2011 Rules, the requirements included: (i) specifying, in service agreements, the categories of content that users are not allowed to upload or share, (ii) taking down content within 36 hours of receiving a court or government order, (iii) assisting law enforcement agencies, (iv) retaining blocked content and associated records for 90 days, and (v) providing a grievance redressal mechanism for users and affected persons, and designating a grievance officer. The 2021 Rules retain these requirements, while: (i) modifying the categories of content that users are not allowed to upload or share, and (ii) prescribing stricter timelines for the above requirements.
· Significant social media intermediaries: The 2021 Rules define social media intermediaries as intermediaries which primarily or solely enable online interaction between two or more users. Intermediaries with registered users above a notified threshold will be classified as significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs). The additional due diligence to be observed by these SSMIs include:
Personnel: An SSMI must appoint: (i) a chief compliance officer for ensuring compliance with the Rules and the Act, (ii) a nodal person for coordination with law enforcement agencies, and (iii) a grievance officer, all of whom should reside in India.
Identifying the first originator of information: An SSMI, which primarily provides messaging services, must enable the identification of the first originator of information within India on its platform. This may be required by an order of a Court or the competent authority under the IT Act. Such orders will be issued on specified grounds including prevention, detection, and investigation of certain offences such as those relating to national security, public order, and sexual violence. Such orders will not be issued if the originator could be identified by less intrusive means.
Technology-based measures: SSMIs will endeavour to deploy technology-based measures to identify: (i) content depicting child sexual abuse and rape, or (ii) information that is identical to the information previously blocked upon a court or government order. Such measures: (i) must be proportionate to interests of free speech and privacy of users, and (ii) have a human oversight and be reviewed periodically.
User-centric requirements: SSMIs must provide users with: (i) a voluntary identity verification mechanism, (ii) a mechanism to check the status of grievances, (iii) an explanation if no action is taken on a complaint, and (iv) a notice where the SSMI blocks the user’s content on its own accord, with a dispute resolution mechanism.
· Digital Media Publishers: The 2021 Rules prescribe certain requirements for online publishers of: (i) news and current affairs content which include online papers, news portals, aggregators and agencies; and (ii) curated audio-visual content, which is defined as a curated catalogue of audio-visual content (excluding news and current affairs) which is owned by, licensed by, or contracted to be transmitted by publishers and available on demand. The Rules institute a three-tier structure for regulating these publishers: (i) self-regulation by publishers, (ii) self-regulation by associations of publishers, and (iii) oversight by the central government.
· Code of Ethics: For publishers of news and current affairs, the following existing codes will apply: (i) norms of journalistic conduct formulated by the Press Council of India, and (ii) programme code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995. For online publishers of curated content, the Rules prescribe the code of ethics. This code requires the publishers to: (i) classify content in specified age-appropriate categories, restrict access of age-inappropriate content by children, and implement an age verification mechanism, (ii) exercise due discretion in featuring content affecting the sovereignty and integrity of India, national security, and likely to disturb public order, (iii) consider India’s multiple races and religions before featuring their beliefs and practices, and (iv) make content more accessible to disabled persons.
· Grievance redressal: Any person aggrieved by the content of a publisher may file a complaint with the publisher, who must address it within 15 days. If the person is not satisfied with the resolution, or the complaint is not addressed within the specified time, the person may escalate the complaint to the association of publishers, who must also address the complaint within 15 days. The complaint will be considered by an inter-departmental committee constituted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting if: (i) escalated by the complainant or the association under certain conditions, or (ii) referred by the Ministry itself.
· Oversight by Ministry: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will: (i) publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices, (ii) issue appropriate advisories and orders to publishers; (iii) have powers to block content on an emergency basis (subject to review by the inter-departmental committee). Any directions for blocking content will be reviewed by a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
Regulation of online intermediaries
Intermediaries include a vast array of entities who facilitate the flow of data on internet. These include telecom service providers, internet service providers, search engines, online marketplaces, payment sites, cyber cafes, messaging services, and social media sites. While many intermediaries are mere conduits or storage providers, where they are unaware of the content being transmitted or stored on their platform, other intermediaries may be aware of the user-generated content on their platform. This raises the question that to what extent intermediaries should be held liable for the user-generated content on their platform.
In some jurisdictions such as European Union and India, intermediaries are regulated through the safe harbour model. Under this model, intermediaries are granted immunity from any liability for any illegal user-generated content provided they comply with certain requirements., , The intermediaries remain immune from liability unless they are aware of the illegality and are not acting adequately to stop it.13 They are subject to ‘duties of care’ and ‘notice and take down’ obligations to remove illegal content.13
In recent years, some online platforms have gained a central role in enabling access, facilitating the exchange of information and sharing of information at scale. Many online platforms have expanded their role from mere hosts of information to that of entities governing how content is displayed and shared online, and undertaking significant actions in the areas of moderation, curation, and recommendation. There are growing concerns around misuse of these platforms for the proliferation of illegal or harmful content such as child sex abuse material, content provoking terrorism, misinformation, hate speech, and voter manipulation.5,6,7,8,14 This has raised questions on the role and responsibility of platforms in preventing diffusion, detection, and subsequent removal of such content.
Some platforms have been self-regulating the publication of such content. However, this has raised concerns about arbitrary actions taken by these platforms which could affect freedom of speech and expression. These developments pose an important challenge for the regulatory framework for intermediaries in terms of finding the correct balance between enhancing the role of platforms and governments in detection, moderation, and curation, and protection of individual’s rights. The 2021 Rules may address some of these issues. Implications of certain provisions under the Rules are discussed in the following sections.
The Rules may be going beyond the powers delegated under the Act
The central government has framed the 2021 Rules as per the following rule-making powers under the Act: (i) carrying out provisions of the Act, (ii) specifying the safeguards or procedures for blocking information for access by the public, and (iii) specifying due diligence to be observed by intermediaries for exemption from liability for third-party information. The 2021 Rules define new types of entities, state their obligations, and prescribe a new regulatory framework for some of these entities. This may be going beyond the powers delegated to the Executive under the Act. Such instances are discussed below. In various judgements, the Supreme Court has held that Rules cannot alter the scope, or provisions, or principles of the enabling Act.,,
Distinct obligations for new classes of intermediaries: The Act defines an intermediary and states its obligations. These include: (i) taking down content upon a court or government order, (ii) retaining certain information, (iii) providing information and assistance to law enforcement agencies in certain conditions, and (iv) observing due diligence to be exempt from intermediary liability. The Rules define two new classes of intermediaries: (i) social media intermediary and (ii) significant social media intermediary (SSMIs). The Rules also specify the additional due diligence to be observed by SSMIs. These include: (i) appointing certain personnel, (ii) identifying the first originator of information (where SSMIs primarily provide messaging services), and (iii) deploying technology-based measures to pro-actively identify certain types of information on a best-effort basis. The Rules also empower the central government to: (i) determine the threshold for classification as SSMIs, (ii) require any other intermediary to comply with additional due diligence requirements for SSMIs. Defining new types of intermediaries, and empowering the government to specify thresholds under these definitions and cast obligations on select entities, may be going beyond the powers delegated to the government under the Act. Provisions such as the definition of new entities and their obligations may have to be specified in the parent Act.
Identification of the first originator of information: The Rules require SSMIs, which provide a service primarily or solely in the nature of messaging, to enable the identification of the first originator of information within India on its platform. This rule has no related provision under the parent Act. The Rules also prescribe certain details such as: (i) information on the first originator can be required only by a government or court order, (ii) the grounds on which such orders can be passed, and (iii) not issuing such an order if less intrusive means to obtain the information are available. It may be questioned whether this amounts to instituting legislative policy, and hence, is required to be provided in the parent Act.
Regulation of online publishers: The Rules prescribe a regulatory framework for online publishers of news and current affairs and curated audio-visual content (such as films, series, and podcast). Regulation of such publishers may be beyond the scope of the IT Act.
Certain grounds for restricting content may affect freedom of speech
The Constitution allows for certain reasonable restrictions with respect to freedom of speech and expression on grounds such as national security, public order, decency, and morality. The IT Act prohibits uploading or sharing content which is obscene, sexually explicit, relates to child sex abuse, or violates a person’s privacy. The 2021 Rules specify certain additional restrictions on the types of information users of intermediary platforms can create, upload, or share. These include: (i) “harmful to child”, (ii) “insulting on the basis of gender”, and (iii) “knowingly and intentionally communicates any information which is patently false or misleading in nature but may reasonably be perceived as a fact”. Some of these restrictions are subjective and overbroad, and may adversely affect the freedom of speech and expression of users of intermediary platforms.
The Supreme Court (2015) has held that a restriction on speech, in order to be reasonable, must be narrowly tailored so as to restrict only what is absolutely necessary. It also held that a speech can be limited on the grounds under the Constitution when it reaches the level of incitement. Other forms of speech even if offensive or unpopular remain protected under the Constitution.
The Rules require the intermediaries to make these restrictions part of their service agreement with users. This implies that users must exercise prior restraint, and intermediaries may interpret and decide upon the lawfulness of content on these grounds. Such overbroad grounds under the Rules may not give a person clarity on what is restricted and may create a ‘chilling effect’ on their freedom of speech and expression. This may also lead to over-compliance from intermediaries as their exemption from liability is contingent upon observing due diligence.
While examining the 2011 Rules on intermediary guidelines, the Lok Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation (2013) had observed that to remove any ambiguity, the definitions of the grounds used in the Rules should be incorporated in the Rules, if the definitions exist in other laws. If not defined in other laws, such grounds should be defined and incorporated in the Rules to ensure that no new category of crimes or offences is created through delegated legislation.21 The 2021 Rules do not provide definitions or references for the terms listed above and hence, may cause ambiguity regarding the interpretation of these terms.
Procedure for information requests from government agencies lacks safeguards
The Rules require intermediaries to provide information under their control or possession upon request by a government agency. The government agency which is lawfully authorised for investigative or protective or cybersecurity activities may place such a request. The request may be placed for verification of identity, or prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of offences under any law or for cybersecurity incidents. However, the Rules do not state any procedural safeguards or requirements for such actions.
An earlier set of Rules notified in 2009 specify the procedure and safeguards subject to which interception, monitoring or decryption of information of intermediaries may be undertaken. These state that such orders must be given by the union or state home secretary (with exceptions in case of unavoidable circumstances and remote regions), and be subject to review by a committee (headed by cabinet secretary or the state’s chief secretary). Further, the authority issuing such orders should first consider alternate means of acquiring information.22
Further, the 2021 Rules do not restrict the extent or type of information that may be sought. For example, the information sought may be personal data of individuals such as details about their interaction with others. Such powers, without adequate safeguards, as those in the 2009 Rules, may adversely affect the privacy of individuals.
Enabling traceability may adversely affect the privacy of individuals
The Rules require significant social media intermediaries, which provide services primarily or solely in the nature of messaging, to enable the identification of the first originator of information within India (commonly referred to as traceability). The Rules state that: (i) such identification should be required by a court order or an order passed by a competent authority under the 2009 Rules (union or state home secretary), (ii) order for identification will be passed for specified purposes including prevention, detection, and investigation of offences related to sovereignty and security of the state, public order, and sexual violence (rape, sexually explicit material or child sex abuse material), and (iii) no such order will be passed if less intrusive means are effective for the required identification.
Enabling such identification may lower the degree of privacy of communication for all users. Identifying the first originator of information on a messaging platform will require the service provider to permanently store certain additional information: (i) who all exchanged a message, and (ii) the exact message or certain details which uniquely describe a message so that information in question may be matched against it. This will be required for every message exchanged over the service provider’s platform to enable tracing the first originator of any message. Note that permanently storing such details about a message is not a technological necessity for providing messaging services over internet. The Rules also do not specify any timeline in terms of how far back in time the messaging service will be required to check for determining the first originator. Overall, this requirement will lead to the retention of more personal data by messaging services which goes against the principle of data minimisation. Data minimisation means limiting data collection to what is necessary to fulfil a specific purpose of data processing, and has been recognised as an important principle for the protection of personal privacy.,
The Supreme Court (2017) has held that any infringement of the right to privacy should be proportionate to the need for such interference. Traceability is required to prevent, detect, and investigate specified offences. For enabling traceability for a few messages that may be required for investigative purposes, the degree of privacy of communication of all users of online messaging services will need to be permanently lowered. Hence, the question is whether this action could be considered proportionate to the objective.
Note that a case related to the issue of traceability is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
Framework for regulation of content of online publishers
Content on conventional media including print, TV, film, and radio are regulated under specific laws as well as license agreements (in the case of TV and radio)., , , These regulations seek to ensure that community standards are reflected in content easily accessible by the public. They also seek to restrict access to certain content based on its age-appropriateness and if it may be deemed unlawful. Economic costs and certain licence requirements for some of these operations mean that their numbers are few. In the past few years, internet has become a more mainstream medium for the publication of news as well as entertainment content. The regulatory framework for content on digital media may not be similar to conventional media as there are certain challenges in terms of: (i) defining who is a publisher; individuals and businesses publishing online may not be regulated in the same manner, (ii) the volume of content to regulate, and (iii) enforcement (cross-border nature of internet means that publishers need not have a physical presence in India). The 2021 Rules under the IT Act prescribe a framework for regulation of content by online publishers of news and current affairs and curated audio-visual content (such as films, series, and podcasts). Certain issues with these Rules are discussed below.
Regulation of online publishers under the 2021 Rules may be beyond the scope of the parent Act
The framework provides for norms and oversight mechanism for the regulation of content of online publishers. The press note by the central government on 2021 Rules noted that online publishers are digital platforms which are governed by the IT Act.6 The IT Act is aimed at providing legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, and to facilitate electronic filing of documents. The Act prohibits cybercrime including publishing specified content such as sexually explicit content, child sex abuse material, and content violating other’s privacy.
Laws such as the Press Council Act, 1978, the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and the Cinematograph Act, 1952 are specific laws regulating publishers of news in print, television broadcast of news and audio-visual content, and films, respectively (similar content through other media).27,28,29,30 Regulation of content of these classes of publishers deals with questions of freedom of press and freedom of artistic expression. It may be questioned whether regulation of online publishers is envisaged under the IT Act and hence, if the 2021 Rules exceed the scope of the Act in this regard.
Oversight mechanism for digital news media lacks the independence accorded to print news
The oversight mechanism for content regulation in case of news in print is under the Press Council of India (PCI), which is an independent statutory body. One of the main objectives of the PCI is to uphold the freedom of the press. The Council consists of a chairman and 28 other members including working journalists, persons from the management of newspapers, members of Parliament, and domain experts. The Chairman is selected by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and a member elected by the PCI. Key functions of the PCI include: (ii) adjudicating upon complaints of violation of standards, (iii) issuing directions upon violation of code of conduct including admonishing, warning, and censuring. For similar functions in case of digital news media, the oversight mechanism will be under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Thus, the oversight mechanism for digital news is not through an independent statutory body unlike that for print publications.
Note that the content of TV news is regulated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act). The CTN Act empowers the central government to prescribe programme code and advertising code to be followed by the publishers. The central government may prohibit the transmission of a programme in the public interest on certain specified grounds if it violates these codes. A three-tier self-regulation mechanism for TV broadcasters, similar to that for online publishers, has been prescribed under the CTN Act in June 2021.
The procedure for emergency blocking of content of online publishers lacks certain safeguards
As per the Rules, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting may pass an order for blocking the content of an online publisher in case of emergency. Such orders may be passed on certain specified grounds including national security and public order, without giving the publisher an opportunity of hearing. Such an order will be examined by the inter-departmental committee for its recommendation on the confirmation or revocation of the order. The Rules do not give the publisher an opportunity for hearing during this entire process. This is in contrast with the process for examination of violation of the code of ethics. Under this process, the concerned publisher will be allowed to appear and submit their reply and clarifications before the committee.
Definition of social media intermediary may be too broad
The Rules define a social media intermediary as an intermediary which primarily or solely enables interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services. This definition may include any intermediary that enables interaction among its users. This could include email service providers, e-commerce platforms, video conferencing platforms, and internet telephony service providers.
 The IT Act can be accessed through Appendix [.] or https://bit.ly/3G2xhTC  IT Act, initial enactment, section 2(w)  Previous text of Section 79 of the IT Act was :- “Section79 : Network service providers not to be liable in certain cases:- For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that no person providing any service as a network service provider shall be liable under this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder for any third party information or data made available by him if he proves that the offence or contravention was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence or contravention.  Avnish Bajaj v. State, Para 6, MANU/DE/1357/2004 (Delhi High Court) accessible at Appendix[.]  Appendix [.] or https://www.meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/Addendum1_Public_comments_on_draft_intermediary_guidelines.pdf  Ibid  Rule 4(1)(b), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  W.P.(CRL) 1082/2020 & Crl. M.A. Nos.9485/2020, 10986-87/2020.  (2017) NSWSC 1300.  Case C-131/12; ECLI:EU:C:2014:317.  Case C-18/18; ECLI:EU:C:2019:821.  (2015) 5 SCC 1.  CS(OS) No.160/2017.  2018 SCC OnLine Del 9439  2019 SCC OnLine Del 10701.  Rule 4(1)(c), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 4(1)(f), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 4(1)(g), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 4(1)(n), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 2(1)(y), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 6(1), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 5(1), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 7(1), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 7(2), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 7(4), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 10(2) & (3), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 10(4), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 10(6), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 11 (1) & (2), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 11(5), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 13(1), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Rule 13(3), Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Appendix, code of ethics, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021  PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”) https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-information-technology-intermediary-guidelines-and-digital-media-ethics-code-rules-2021  Section 2 (1) (w), The Information Technology Act, 2000.  Section 79, The Information Technology Act, 2000.  The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/GSR314E_10511%281%29_0.pdf  Supra Note 1  Official Debates, Rajya Sabha, July 26, 2018- as per PRS India  “Government notifies Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, February 25, 2021 accessible at Appendix [.] and https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1700749.  Suo Moto Writ Petition No. 3 of 2015, Supreme Court of India, December 11, 2018 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2015/6818/6818_2015_Order_11-Dec-2018.pdf.  “Report of the Adhoc Committee of the Rajya Sabha to Study the Alarming Issue of Child Pornography on Social Media and its Effect on Children and Society at Large”, February 3, 2020 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/Committee_site/Committee_File/ReportFile/71/140/0_2020_2_17.pdf.  W.P. (Civil) No. 6272 of 2021, Kerala High Court, accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/wpc-live-law-media-pvt-ltd-vs-union-of-indiakerhc-390340.pdf.  W.P. (Civil) No 3125 of 2021, Delhi High Court accessible at Appendix [.] or http://delhihighcourt.nic.in/dhcqrydisp_o.asp?pn=42714&yr=2021  Article 13-15, Directive 2000/31/EC of The European Parliament And of the Council accessible at Appendix [.] or https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32000L0031&from=EN.  Section 79, The Information Technology Act, 2000.  “Reform of the EU Liability Regime for Online Intermediaries”, European Parliamentary Research Service, May 2020 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2020/649404/EPRS_IDA(2020)649404_EN.pdf.  “Liability of online platforms”, European Parliamentary Research Service, February 2021 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/656318/EPRS_STU(2021)656318_EN.pdf  Agricultural Market Committee vs Shalimar Chemical Works Ltd, 1997 Supp(1) SCR 164, May 7, 1997, accessible at Appendix [.].  State of Karnataka v Ganesh Kamath, 1983 SCR (2) 665, March 31, 1983, accessible at Appendix [.].  Kerala State Electricity Board vs Indian Aluminium Company, 1976 SCR (1) 552, September 1, 1975, accessible at Appendix [.].  Article 19, The Constitution of India, accessible at Appendix [.].  Section 67, 67A, and 67B, The Information Technology Act, 2000  Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 167 Of 2012, Supreme Court of India, March 24, 2015 accessible at Appendix [.].  31st Report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation of Lok Sabha on Rules under the IT Act, 2000, March 2013, accessible at Appendix [.] or http://188.8.131.52/lsscommittee/Subordinate%20Legislation/15_Subordinate%20Legislation_31.pdf  The Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 under the Information Technology Act, 2000, accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/Information%20Technology%20%28Procedure%20and%20Safeguards%20for%20Interception%2C%20Monitoring%20and%20Decryption%20of%20Information%29%20Rules%2C%202009.pdf.  White Paper of the Committee of Experts on Data Protection Framework for India under the Chairmanship of Justice B.N. Shrikrishna accessible at Appendix [.] or https://meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/white_paper_on_data_protection_in_india_171127_final_v2.pdf.  Article 5, General Data Protection Regulation of European Union accessible at Appendix [.] or https://gdpr-info.eu.  Justice K.S.Puttswamy (Retd) vs Union of India, W.P.(Civil) No 494 of 2012, Supreme Court of India, August 24, 2017 accessible at Appendix [.].  Facebook Inc vs Antony Clement Rubin, Diary No 32478/2019, Admitted on January 30, 2020, Supreme Court of India accessible at Appendix [.].  The Press Council Act, 1978 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1978-37.pdf  The Press and Registration Of Books Act, 1867, accessible at Appendix [.] or https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1867-25.pdf  The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/1928/1/A1995-07.pdf  The Cinematograph Act, 1952 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1952-37.pdf  “The Challenge of managing digital content”, International Telecommunications Union, August 23, 2017 accessible at Appendix [.] or https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Regional-Presence/AsiaPacific/Documents/Events/2017/August-RR-ITP-2017/ITU%20Report%20Regulatng%20Digital%20Content%202017%20Final.pdf  Introduction to the Information Technology Act, 2000  The Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021 issued under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, accessible at Appendix [.] or https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/25-6%20CTN%20Appl%205.5X8.5inch%281%29_0.pdf