The notification of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011 in April 2011 has resulted in the creation of a mechanism whereby intermediaries (such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc) receive protection from legal liability in return for trading away the freedom of expression and privacy of users.
The Rules demand that intermediaries, on receiving a complaint that any content posted online is considered grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner, have to disable the content within 36 hours of receipt of complaint. The rules also require the intermediaries to provide the Government agencies information of users without any safeguards.
Under these Rules intermediaries will be forced to disable any and all content that falls foul of the incredibly broad and ambiguous criteria laid above, as non-compliance with such requests will result in their losing the liability protection afforded to intermediaries. In short, the Rules will result in private policing of the internet. Any content that is critical of state policy, any organization or even any individual could run the risk of being censored, thanks to the Rules. The Rules violate the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
There is no due process of law, any attention to principles of natural justice or a redressal mechanism for the aggrieved victim, whose content is taken down. The Rules are also ambiguous and arbitrary, disjointed, legislate on disparate areas and are beyond the rule-making power of the Government.
After the Avnish Bajaj case, the Legislature wanted a safe harbor for intermediaries with safeguards and not a system of back door censorship for the Government. In view of the possible deleterious effects of the Rules, the Honorable Member of Parliament, Shri P. Rajeeve has moved a statutory motion to get the aforesaid Rules annulled. This motion has been admitted and will be coming up before the Rajya Sabha during the second half of the Budget session of the parliament that starts on 24th of April, 2012.
We urge all MPs to support the annulment motion. We also request the Government to draft new rules, that will protect our freedom and privacy, after holding consultation among all stakeholders.
There is an online petition in favor of the annulment motion at:
Names of Organisations
Software Freedom Law Center, India
Delhi Science Forum
Save Your Voice Campaign
Internet Democracy Project
Center for Internet and Society
Free Software Movement India
IT for Change
Alternative Law Forum