As per the notification, an intermediary shall publish, on an appropriate place on its website or mobile application, a clear and concise statement informing publishers of news and current affairs content that in addition to the common terms of service for all users, such publishers shall furnish the details of their user accounts on the services of such intermediary to the ministry as may be required under rule 18.
The said Rule 18 talks about publishers of news and current affairs content and publishers of online curated content furnishing the details of their entities within 30 days of the publication of the new rules.
“More clarity will come to Rule 5 once points referred in Rule 18 are specified. The new rules seem to be framed to strike a balance between preventing anonymous use of social media platforms for any unlawful acts while protecting freedom of expression and right to privacy. While they mention that application of rules need to be proportionate to such rights, some clarity around this would be helpful for social media platforms and the people using them,” said Akshay Nagpal, partner at L&L Partners.
A lawyer working for a media company said as per the rules, social media platforms will have to clearly inform news publishers that if needed, they may have to furnish details of their social media handles and users to the ministry.
“However, it is not clear what all information will have to be shared and in what form,” he added.
Facebook,anddid not respond to emails seeking comments on rules linked to social media platforms and publishers of news and current affairs content.
Akash Karmakar, partner at Panag & Babu said it appears that this provision is intended to compel intermediaries engaged in news and current affairs publishing to provide details of their users to the ministry allowing the ministry to understand the user base of such intermediaries.
“Accordingly, it is likely that a clarification should be sought to understand what exactly is intended to be covered by user accounts,” he added.
Nikhil Narendran, partner at Trilegal said more queries around the rule would surface once implementation starts. “It means that the social media platforms need to inform publishers that their social media account details could be shared with the ministry if it is required under rule 18,” he added.