MeitY in process of amending IT rules for intermediaries to make them more accountable, says minister

Minister of State for Electronics and IT Sanjay Dhotre said Section 79(1) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, grants intermediaries a conditional immunity, concerning any third-party content uploaded on their platforms.
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The Indian government is working on amending the IT rules for intermediaries like Facebook and Google to make them more responsive and accountable, the Parliament was informed on Monday.

"Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is in the process of amending the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, to make the intermediaries more responsive and accountable," Minister of State for Electronics and IT Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

The rules are presently being finalised, he added.

Dhotre said Section 79(1) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, grants intermediaries a conditional immunity, concerning any third-party content uploaded on their platforms.

However, this immunity is subject to provisions of certain other sections of the Act, he added.

"Section 79 of the IT Act already provides safe harbour protection to intermediaries subject to their following due diligence as prescribed in IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011, notified under this section. The government respects the right of freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Constitution of India," he said.

The intermediaries are expected to disable any unlawful content relatable to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India as and when brought to their knowledge either through court order or through a notice by the appropriate government or its agency, Dhotre added.

In another development, the minister, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, informed that Aarogya Setu, the biggest COVID-19 contact tracing app in the world, has more than 15.7 crore registered users.

He said Aarogya Setu is equipped with security features to protect the confidentiality and security of users' data.

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The app's data is encrypted in transit, as well as at rest. Personal information provided at the time of registration is encrypted before being uploaded to the backend server, where it is stored in an encrypted form, he said, adding that the data collected by the app is governed by stipulated protocols and policy.

Response data from Aarogya Setu is shared with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, state governments, and other ministries and departments, "where such sharing is strictly necessary to directly formulate or implement an appropriate health response," he added.

(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)

Edited by Suman Singh