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IT rule tweak likely if social media firms abuse power: Chandrasekhar

The latest stance by the minister follows a series of confrontations between the government and Twitter over the moderation of user-generated content on the platform

Social Media | Rajeev Chandrasekhar | IT ministry

Sourabh Lele 

Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The may further revise IT Rules 2021 if intermediaries abuse their power and restrict free speech on their platforms, Minister of State for Electronics and (MoS IT) told reporters on Friday when asked about alleged unfair filtering of content on .

Bari Weiss, founder of the news publication The Free Press, on Friday published the second instalment of the Files, a series of revelations on the steps taken by the microblogging platform to suppress free speech. “A new #TwitterFiles investigation reveals that teams of employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics — all in secret, without informing users,” Weiss said in a Tweet.

The revelations also claim that Twitter executives and employees used a powerful tool like “Visibility Filtering or VF” to block searches of individual users and to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability.

Chandrasekhar said the was upset with the revelations. “It is clear that selective filtering, amplifying, and silencing is dealt with by articles 14, 19, and 21’s stipulations in the amended IT Rules,” the minister said. However, he denied the need for any immediate action on Twitter.

The Ministry of Electronics and (MeitY) in October released the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022, after five months of deliberations. According to it, the will appoint grievance appellate committees (GACs) to redress complaints from users related to content moderation. The provision on GACs was included despite reservations from some big platforms.

The minister said GACs will be appointed soon. “The fact that a few people were using the power of this platform, misusing it, distorting conversations, abusing the power of that platform, and weaponising misinformation is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“We were concerned that this power to abuse existed, but we were not aware that this was actually being done on such a systemic and wide scale,” Chandrasekhar said.

The minister said the government did not want an adversarial relationship with any platform, but violations of laws would lead to the withdrawal of safe harbour of intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act.

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First Published: Fri, December 09 2022. 21:06 IST