New IT law in the offing; Centre starts discussion; new law to focus on stalking in social media

This comes after new rules for social media intermediaries under the Information Technology Act of 2000 which sparked a row with Facebook and Twitter

New IT law in the offing; Centre starts discussion; new law to focus on stalking in social media
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NH Web Desk

The Central government has initiated a fresh round of discussions for a completely new IT law “to deal with present and future circumstances”, reported The Indian Express.

This comes after new rules for social media intermediaries under the Information Technology Act of 2000 which sparked a row with Facebook and Twitter .

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in February had released strict rules under the existing IT Act for social media intermediaries, which were challenged by multiple stakeholders in different high courts. The Madras and the Bombay High Courts have stayed operation of key parts of the rules.

According to the report in the Indian Express, senior government officials said, when put in place, it “will subsume all these rules”, including the setting up of a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, and officers. “Our goal is to ensure compliance. If there can be compliance without litigation, why not do that?” a senior official said.

There may be some tweaks to remove any criminal liability on the grievance and compliance officers appointed by intermediaries, the official said

The new IT Act will likely contain rules that cover “newer aspects of technology”, like blockchain, bitcoin and dark net, among others.

“The old IT Act of 2000 was drawn up mainly keeping in mind prevention of simple fraud, blocking of websites and illegal content of different kinds that existed then. A lot has changed. It would not make sense to amend the old Act. We would rather introduce a new law to deal with present and future circumstances that may arise,” an official told the Indian Express.


“The new IT law will define various forms of online sexual harassment, such as stalking, bullying, morphing of photos, and other methods, while also laying out clear guidelines on punishment for these offences.”

“Right now, there is no legal definition of what consists of online bullying or stalking or the exact penal provision for other forms of sexual harassment such as making unwanted comments, morphing photos, releasing or posting private photos without someone’s consent. The intermediaries are doing it, but it is on a case-to-case basis approach. A pan-India law is needed,” an official said.

“The protection that Section 79 (of the current IT Act) offers is too wide-ranging. A social media intermediary cannot claim protection if it does not proactively work on removing illegal content on its platform such as porn, nudity, or messages that facilitate terror and disruption,” an official said.

According to the Indian Express report, Another feature in the new Data Protection Law is a strict ‘age-gating’ policy, which will require the consent of parents when children register for social media websites. This idea has been opposed by social media intermediaries but officials said the government wants to ensure that children below 18 are “protected and feel safe on the internet”.

Earlier this year, the IT Ministry’s new rules for social media intermediaries had led to a standoff with Facebook and Twitter with both finally appointing the grievance and compliance personnel mandated but also approaching court.

The Ministry had also asked these platforms to submit monthly reports on complaints received from users and action taken. A third requirement was for instant messaging apps to make provisions for tracking the originator of a message, reported Indian Express

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