Need A Graded Approach For Content Takedowns: Amar Patnaik

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Patnaik said that a graded approach to regulations helps the companies plan their investments and achieve their goals

In terms of IT rules, whatever is being done now or suggested now has to be treated as a work in progress: Patnaik

Patnaik is of the view that there should be a principles-based system over rules-based system when it comes to IT, privacy and crypto laws

The release of draft amendments to IT Rules, 2021 has sparked debate around how much control it puts in the government’s hands. Two of the proposed rules which have been most discussed are the shorter timeline for content takedown by social media intermediaries and the formation of a grievance Appellate Committee. In this context, Dr Amar Patnaik, Rajya Sabha MP (BJD) and member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, has said that there is a need to have a graded approach for takedowns.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the launch event of a report – IT Rules, 2021: A Regulatory Impact Assessment Study by IAMAI and The Dialogue, Patnaik said that a graded approach to regulations helps the companies plan their investments and achieve their goals. 

“There has to be a graded approach, you can’t compare different kinds of harm(s) and put them in one basket and say everything has to be done in 24 hours,” Patnaik said.

In terms of IT rules, whatever is being done now or suggested now has to be treated as a work in progress because the sector keeps evolving, he added. 

Technology moves far ahead of regulations, Patnaik said, adding that there should be a principles-based system over rules-based system when it comes to IT, privacy or crypto laws. 

“The rules have to evolve over a period of time because each time you can’t come to Parliament. The global order also has to be in that order, where the principle is laid down and the rule has to be framed by individual countries which the players will follow,” he said.

The personal liability mandate in the amended rules is inconsistent with decriminalisation of multiple offences under Acts such as the Companies Act, 2013, Patnaik said. However, he also mentioned that there was a lack of cooperation from big tech companies when the parliamentary committee was examining them on the private data protection bill (PDP). 

It must be noted that the proposed IT rules impose a personal criminal liability on the chief compliance officer of significant social media intermediaries. The industry stakeholders had earlier sought a revision of this clause for “ease of doing business”. 

Patnaik said that the parliamentary committee did not know whom to send the notices in the big tech companies for their representative to appear before the panel, and the idea of a chief compliance officer emanated from it.

“Whenever there is a violation or an infringement of an individual, every individual’s right is protected by the Supreme Court. You can’t say just because of 1% or one individual, you are jeopardising the rights of 99%,” he added.

According to Patnaik, policy will not follow technology, rather technology will have to follow the law. If there has been an infringement or an individual has been caused undue harm, the originator has to be apprehended. 

“That has to be ensured by developing technology further or doing something. Currently, one may not be able to address it but you cannot say our technology cannot take care of it, therefore you should change your law,” he said.

The government had notified the IT Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 for social media apps, online news portals, news aggregators and OTT platforms in February 2021 to ensure an “open, safe and trusted and accountable” internet for all Indian users.

While the new rules had initially faced resistance from companies, later they abided by it. Last month, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the regulations will evolve in consultation with the stakeholders involved.



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