Centre for Internet & Society

Facing widespread criticism over new IT rules that put certain amount of liability on intermediaries like Google and Facebook for user-generated content, the government clarified that the rules are simply seeking "due diligence" on the part of websites and web hosts. This news was published in the Times of India on May 11, 2011.

The new rules were notified on April 11. Activists and Internet companies say that the rules are archaic and loosely worded and may lead to harassment of web users and website owners. The Times of India was first to report on the issue on April 27.

The ministry of information and technology said, "The terms specified in the rules are in accordance with the terms used by most of the intermediaries as part of their existing practices, policies and terms of service which they have published on their website."

It also clarified the "department of telecommunication has reiterated that there is no intention of the government to acquire regulatory jurisdiction over content under these rules".

The government has claimed that before it made the rules final, it had sought public comments over the draft. "None of the industry associations and other stakeholders objected to the formulation which is now being cited in some section of media," it claimed.

However, sources told TOI that companies like Google had objected to loose wordings of the documents and asked government not to put any liability on intermediary for user-generated content on the web. "We too approached the government with our concerns. For our communication, we never received any acknowledgment," said Sunil Abraham, executive director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).

"Given the fact that final rules are more or less similar to the draft rules, I can say that nobody in the government took into account the objections raised by CIS and many other organizations," he added.

Google had earlier told TOI that new rules would adversely affect businesses that depend upon online collaboration to prosper. "We believe that a free and open Internet is essential for the growth of digital economy and safeguarding freedom of expression.

If Internet platforms are held liable for third party content, it would lead to self-censorship and reduce the free flow of information," a Google spokesperson said.

Read the original published by the Times of India here

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