The government plans to strengthen the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines), 2011 under IT Act to address new forms of challenges on social media platforms. These rules have recently been invoked by corporations to have disparaging content taken off from social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The latest one comes from global beverage giant PepsiCo, which obtained an interim order from the Delhi High Court to delete posts from various social media sites, which the company said furthered the myth that its product Kurkure contained plastic. Prior to PepsiCo, FMCG companies Patanjali and
ITC had obtained directions from the Delhi High Court for Facebook, Google and YouTube to take down videos that allegedly criticised their products wrongfully.
“Social media platforms are required to follow due diligence prescribed in these rules, which inter alia includes informing the users of computer resources not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is harmful, objectionable, affects minors and is unlawful in any way. Government will further strengthen these guidelines to address new forms of challenges,” Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said Monday in the Rajya Sabha.
He said this in response to a question on whether the government had taken steps to curb increasing number of trolling on social media platforms and whether it was planning to formulate any new policy for the social media and its users.
In its petition to the Delhi High Court, PepsiCo noted that initially upon finding out that Facebook was hosting videos “disparaging and denigrating” Kurkure, the company reported the content using the social media platform’s report abuse mechanism. It said that based on its complaint, Facebook removed such content from its platform. Following this, PepsiCo continued to report disparaging content on various platforms. However, despite the company’s efforts, such content continued to be circulated on the platform. Upon once again approaching the platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter through their abuse report mechanisms and e-mail, PepsiCo was told by the platforms to obtain appropriate court orders to remove the content. The Delhi High Court, then issued an interim order, asking the platforms to take down the posts in question.
Social media platforms, while having standards for what one can or can’t post on their sites, have attempted to draw a balance between abusive posts and freedom of speech. Therefore, much of the cleaning up of such posts happens through the abuse report mechanism. Facebook, for example, in April this year released an updated version of its Community Standard Guidelines, which lays down the rules for what is acceptable for its users to post. It has also strengthened the appeals process for the abuse report on the platform. Apart from appealing the platform’s decision to remove an individual piece of content, users can also appeal to Facebook’s decisions to preserve the content that one reported to be in violation of the rules.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has recently ramped up pressure on online platforms such as WhatsApp to counter the circulation of fake news, especially in light people being killed due to the spread of rumours. IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, earlier this month, told the Parliament that it was critical for social media service providers to ensure the lawful provision of their services and platforms in India to continue receiving access to Indian users.