MEITY issues FAQs on the Intermediary Rules
(Vikram Jeet Singh and Kalindhi Bhatia)
A week ago, on November 01, 2021, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (“MEITY”) released a set of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”). These were issued with the objective to provide clarity on the application of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), Rules, 2021 (“Rules”), issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000 earlier this year. The Rules substantially modified the regime governing ‘intermediaries’, you will remember. For a quick refresher on the Rules and how they impact digital businesses, you can access our materials here.
It is worth noting that these FAQs are not legally binding, or a restatement or modification of the Rules. These may provide some insight into the regulatory intent behind some provisions of the new Rules, and indications on how certain parts of the Rules may be enforced. For this reason, these FAQs make useful reading.
A copy of these FAQs can be accessed here. For quick reference, below are some interesting clarifications provided under the FAQs -
Status of B2B services platforms: Intermediaries primarily enabling commercial or business-oriented transactions, for example providing access to Internet or search-engine services, e-mail services, or online storage services, etc., will not be viewed as ‘social media intermediaries’. To qualify as a social media intermediary, the platform would have to enable socialization/ social networking by allowing users to “follow/subscribe”, interact with strangers, share content, etc.
Compliance report format: There is no fixed format for the monthly compliance report. It can be prepared at the discretion of the intermediary and may include details like, user complaint subject, voluntary actions taken, number of links removed, etc.
Content takedown notification: Significant social media intermediaries are required to notify users if their content is taken down because: (a) it is prohibited by law; or (b) removed pursuant to the grievance redressal mechanism. Notifying users may not be prudent in instances wherein bot activity, malware, or terrorism is suspected, in such cases the intermediary may devise their own approach to effectively counter the bot activity, etc.
Common Officers: The parent of a significant social media intermediary can appoint common officers for multiple platforms, provided the contact details of such officers are separately listed on each platform.