What are the new IT rules of India? How does it impacts Twitter and other networks?

We will present to you the new IT rules implemented in 2021 and how does it impacts Twitter and other networks in India.

The information technology (IT) rules 2021 were released by the Ministry of Electronics in February. The government on 26 May issued a fresh notice to all social media intermediaries seeking details on the status of compliance with the new rules that came into effect on that day. Now we will let you know the new IT rules 2021.

1. The False-use of Social Media


The rule came out to ensure the safety and sovereignty of cyberspace and personal data. Social media is rapidly becoming a crucial part of an individual’s life. Whereas Whatsapp has a 340 million user base, Facebook has 290 million, Twitter has 17 million, Youtube has 265 million and Instagram has a 120 million user base. The teach-giants has no other options to ignore the spread of fake news, rampant abuse of the platforms to share morphed images of women, deep fakes and other contents that threaten the dignity of women and pose a threat to security. However, the Supreme Court in 2018, in the Tehseen Poonawalla v/s Union of India case, directed the government to curb and stop the dissemination of explosive messages and videos on various social media platforms which tend to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind. The new rules are thus following the previous Supreme Court observations. According to the rule, intermediaries are mandated to remove or disable contents that are against the safety and dignity of individuals within 24 hours of receiving complaints. As per the government, knowing the “first originator of information” of messages that cause violence, riots, terrorism, rape or threat to national security fall under reasonable exceptions to the Right to Privacy – which is not absolute as per the Constitution.

2. Technological obstruction concerning traceability

Social media like Whatsapp have expressed apprehension about the provisions in the new rules which require them to identify traceability when required to do so by authorities. On the other side, the government has stated that traceability would only be required in matters of very serious offences that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India. Ahead in the future, it could also be implemented without breaking the end-to-end encryption. The ways to trace the origin of a message can be supplying metadata like the phone number of the sender, the time of sending a message, the device it was sent from and its location. WhatsApp’s new privacy policy has a provision of sharing metadata of its users with its parent company, Facebook, for personalised ads. Recently, the union government has sent a notice to WhatsApp for the withdrawal of its new privacy policy which caused a lot of controversies since the new policy came.

3. The free speech debate

Twitter had concerns about free speech over the new IT guidelines and stated that it would strive to comply with the law but if guided by principles of transparency and freedom of expression under the rule of law. If the new rules aren’t complied with, the intermediary status of the companies will be removed to avoid liability for the content that their users publish and could invite sanction or even punishment under the law. The government insists that the rules are neither arbitrary nor sudden since the draft rules were put up for public comments and several individuals, industrial associations and organizations had responded.

4. The Way Forward

As the basic tenet of democracy is Freedom of Speech and Expression, no freedom is absolute or completely unrestricted. The imperative of striking the right balance between fundamental rights and ascertaining the reasonableness of a restriction has been a constant effort since the adoption of the Constitution. The present debate between private, tech giants who own a substantial amount of Big Data, governments desirous of imposing reasonable restrictions and users worried about issues relating to data privacy and constraints on freedom of speech and expression that is likely to get more difficult before optimum solutions can be arrived at. The new rule seeks to address the concerns of the citizens without infringing on their privacy and personal liberties while maintaining digital sovereignty at the same time.