New Delhi, Mar 29 (PTI) No social media company can undermine the constitutional rights of citizens, and internet must be a safe and trusted place with all platforms accountable to their users, IT Ministry officials said on Tuesday amid allegations that digital platforms are acting arbitrarily in pulling down content.
The Centre has also affirmed its stance in an affidavit submitted before the Delhi High Court, sources told PTI.
This is the first time that the IT Ministry has outlined its stance in a dispute between users and social media platforms. The affidavit was submitted following a writ petition filed by a social media user before the court.
There is a growing discontent among a section of users who allege that digital platforms have been indulging in arbitrary acts in taking down content.
The sources said the ministry is committed to open, safe, trusted and accountable internet.
No intermediary can violate any law of India and undermine the constitutional rights of Indian citizens to Article 14 (non-discrimination), Article 19 (freedom of speech, subject to certain restrictions), and Article 21 (right to privacy), the sources said.
The ministry is of the view that no intermediary, big or small, Indian or foreign, can ever have power to violate the fundamental and constitutional rights of Indian citizens.
Digital platforms cannot infringe on citizen’s rights guaranteed by the Constitution, under the guise of violation of platforms’ own policies unless it constitutes violation of laws, the sources said referring to some instances of content take down in an arbitrary manner.
Social media platforms and intermediaries must respect all the laws and rules that are in force from time to time. So far as policy stance is concerned, internet has to be a safe and trusted place for all users, and all intermediaries must be accountable to the users, the sources said.
Further, they emphasised that no intermediary guidelines, policy or actions can be ultra vires the constitutional rights of citizens.
According to the sources, under the IT rules notified in February 2021, all intermediaries are expected to conduct due diligence of the users as well as content posted on the platforms concerned.
It is pertinent to mention that the ministry followed up the IT intermediary rules 2021, with the release of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in November.
Releasing the FAQs, Minister of State for Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar had affirmed the ministry’s commitment in safeguarding the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 14, 19 & 21 of the Constitution.
He had also highlighted the need for an open, safe, trusted and accountable internet, and had pitched for developing a culture of rule-based accountability in cyber jurisprudence.
The sources also said that if any content violates the parameters such as national sovereignty or public order, the platforms concerned should either take such content down or respond to the government or court’s direction to take it down.
The government is the protector of citizen’s constitutional rights and fundamental rights, the sources said, adding that this extends to the cyberspace as well. PTI MBI RAM
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Source: The Print