Social media must be made more accountable and stricter rules in this regard could be introduced if there is political consensus on the issue, Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told Rajya Sabha on Friday.
Responding to a series of further questions in this regard, he said that whenever the government has taken steps to empower social media, the opposition has accused it of restricting freedom of expression.
“But that’s not the case,” he said during Question Time.
Responding to a question from BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi on actions taken against websites such as “BulliBai” targeting Muslim women, he said the government acted immediately when the violation was brought to its attention.
“We need to achieve balance and consensus to hold social media accountable to ensure the safety and security of our women and our future generations,” the minister said.
For that, he said, social media rules need to be tightened and if the opposition accuses the government of restricting free speech, then that is wrong.
“We must move forward together in the new direction.” Asked by Congress MP Anand Sharma if there is a verification process to effectively verify the functioning of social media, the minister said there has been stricter social media accountability.
“If the House reaches a consensus, we are prepared to provide even stricter rules on social media. I personally believe that for the protection of our citizens, we need to make the rules stricter,” he said. .
“I agree with you that we need to come forward as a society and create a lot more social media accountability,” the minister also said.
He said that at present the government is working within the constitutional framework and the role of the States and the Center must be put into perspective.
State government law enforcement is taking action based on information from certain agencies or my team, he said.
There is a framework created for any cybercrime that occurs across the country and it can be reported through a central portal and it is forwarded to the relevant law enforcement agency, he added.
On the action against websites like ‘BulliBai’, Mr Vaishnaw said: “This is a very sensitive issue. Protecting the dignity of women is a fundamental construct of our government and there can be no compromise on this. This is our commitment and there is talk of any religion or region in it. He said the government took immediate action on the matter, adding that the measures were not just superficial, but that the IT ministry went further by addressing the root cause.
Mr Vaishnaw said social media is all prevalent and very important in our lives today and the government has put in place comprehensive rules and interim guidelines for social media in 2021 on how to make safe and responsible social media, to prevent their misuse.
Under it, there were five institutional frameworks and all social media intermediaries are required to publish their monthly compliance report online, he said.
In his written response, the minister said: “Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are considered intermediaries under the Information Technology Act 2000. The government is committed to ensuring that the Internet in India is open, secure, reliable and responsible for all users.” In line with the above objectives, the government notified the Information Technology Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Codes of Ethics) on 25 February 2021 to ensure the security and trust of Internet.
The rules also provide for additional due diligence to be followed by significant social media intermediaries, he said.
“In the event of non-compliance, Rule 7 of these rules becomes applicable and intermediaries are liable to lose their exemption from liability under section 79 of the Computers Act 2000,” said Mr Vaishnaw.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)