IT Rules’ Amendment: Concerns Over Freedom of Expression, Digital Privacy 

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Social media platforms and digital news media entities will now be required to appoint grievance redressal officers based in India.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – The amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, has sparked a heated debate, with concerns raised regarding its implications for freedom of expression and digital privacy.

The amendment mandates significant changes in the functioning of digital news media platforms and social media intermediaries.

Under the amended rules, social media platforms and digital news media entities are required to appoint grievance redressal officers based in India. The officer would be responsible for addressing user complaints and ensuring compliance with the government’s directives. This move is aimed at increasing accountability and transparency in the digital space, where misinformation and fake news often proliferate unchecked, a report by The News Minute said on Saturday.

However, critics argue that the stringent regulations could potentially stifle freedom of speech and expression, as platforms may resort to over-censorship to avoid penalties. The requirement for platforms to disclose the originator of contentious content has also raised concerns regarding user privacy and data protection. The lack of clarity surrounding the enforcement mechanism and the scope of the rules add to the apprehensions surrounding their implementation, the report said.

In response to the criticism, officials defended the amendments stating that they are necessary to curb the spread of fake news, hate speech, and other forms of online abuse. The government maintains that the rules are designed to empower users and provide them with a safer online environment. However, civil society organisations and digital rights activists remain sceptical, calling for greater transparency and accountability in the formulation and implementation of such regulations.

The controversy surrounding the IT rules amendment underscores the delicate balance between freedom of expression and the regulation of digital platforms. While there is a growing consensus on the need to address online abuse and misinformation, the methods employed must not infringe upon fundamental rights. As India’s digital landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative for policymakers to engage in meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure that regulatory measures are fair, transparent, and conducive to a thriving digital ecosystem.

The Union Government’s amendment to the IT rules has ignited a crucial conversation about the future of digital governance in the country. As the debate rages on, it is essential for all parties involved to prioritise transparency, accountability, and the protection of fundamental rights. Only through constructive engagement and collaborative efforts can a balanced regulatory framework be established that safeguards both online freedom and public interest.

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