Coming soon quarterly compliance audit for social media companies

The government plans to conduct quarterly reviews of major social media intermediaries (SSMIs) and internet companies to assess their compliance with information technology rules, 2021, a senior official told ET.

The assessment, which will be conducted by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology starting in September, will verify compliance on various parameters including the number of complaints received by intermediaries, the number of complaints received and resolved by the resident chief compliance officer, including the others.

“The idea of ​​the audit is to ensure that intermediaries, whether they are significant social media intermediaries or not, adhere to the IT Rules to the letter and in spirit. That is why we will now also conduct quarterly audits, “the official added.

Currently, the Department of IT does not conduct any compliance audits of various orders approved under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act or otherwise.

However, it meets with senior officials of significant and insignificant social media intermediaries every fortnight to assess compliance of emergency orders.

Quarterly audits will be conducted in addition to these meetings and the monthly compliance report that companies are required to submit.

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According to the IT Rules of 2021, each social media intermediary must, in a clear and readable report, communicate the number of user complaints received, the various categories of complaints received and the action taken.

The move to institute quarterly reviews comes even as the IT department is in the final stages of releasing a revised version of the interim guidelines, first published in February 2021.

ET previously reported that global Big Tech giants like Google, Meta, and Twitter were in the final stages of recommending a self-regulatory body to the IT ministry, which could include a panel led by a retired chief of justice or a judge of the Supreme Court or one of the high courts.

Other members are likely to come from industry ranks, independent technology policymakers, and one or two government-appointed members.

On the other hand, the IT ministry has proposed its own appeal committee for complaints on social media. Sources said the government intends to keep industry executives out of this committee.

In June, the IT ministry completed public consultations with industry experts, lawyers and representatives of social media intermediaries on the proposed changes to the IT rules. It had asked all interested parties to submit comments on the amendments by 6 July.

Senior officials said the IT ministry received nearly 100 suggestions, some of which it is studying in detail with the help of outside subject matter experts and legal experts.

Other proposed changes include compressing the time allowed for social media intermediaries to respond to user complaints to 72 hours versus 96 hours earlier.

The draft also suggested that intermediaries should be called upon to share a greater burden for content moderation on their platform, in addition to creating an appellate court.

The draft also stated that “all online intermediaries providing services in India must never contravene the Indian constitution, laws and rules and follow them in letter and spirit.”

The Minister of State for Information Technologies, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who chaired the open-door consultation held on June 23, said that the government’s perspective on the changes in IT rules of 2021 was to guarantee four principles. fundamentals of openness to the Internet, online security and trust, accountability by social media intermediaries and full compliance with the Indian Constitution and legal provisions.

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