- Background: In 2014, Avnish Bajaj, the founder of Baazee.com was arrested. What was his crime? Bajaj had joined investigations and was helping police with an investigation in the online sales of a clip that contained a sexually explicit material that came to be known as the, “DPS MMS clip”. This lead to better protections for online businesses in law what were called a safe harbor protections under the Information Technology Act.
- Recall proposal for changes: We analysed and prepared a guide for you on how a series of proposed changes to the safe harbor protections may have an adverse effect on your abilities and functioning as a start-up. Most of these changes would be bad for your users and your businesses. They would erode your users privacy and free speech and also saddle you with costs and compliances.
- Take action now: You can prevent these proposals from advancing further. This can be done in very simple ways by sending an email and engaging with an ongoing public consultation process.
How do the changes affect you?
The changes to the Intermediary Rules will have a drastic impact on each stakeholder of the internet, especially all you aspiring entrepreneurs. The Rules tighten the reins with increased regulatory compliances and start-ups and small enterprises will find it extremely cumbersome to carry out business and meet the requirements set by law. This will impact your trust and reliability expected by users as their privacy and free speech rights will be put to risk.
What are the changes?
The Information Technology Act Section 79 protects intermediaries from liability for any content hosted or created by third parties as long as it has remained a mere facilitator of information and is not involved in the creation or modification of the same. However, this is about to change for the worse. Right now troubling amendments to the Intermediary Rules that are made under Section 79 have been mooted by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY).
With a large portion of activities carried out on any online platform, certain aspects are bound to be beyond your control. Objectionable user comments or content should not put you in the ‘dog house’ with the authorities. The Information Technology Act up until now protected intermediaries, be it social networks or even e-commerce platforms. With the changes, intermediaries would be required to actively participate in the regulating of these issues. This is in addition to other onerous requirements the proposed law will ask of you.
As a start-up, dedicating limited resources to this kind of active monitoring will definitely take a toll on your performance. We have explained how these Rules will affect you in detail. We want to ensure these rules are recalled.
What can you do to help?
A public consultation has been announced by MeitY inviting comments and suggestions on these changes to the IT Rules. This ends on February 14, which is the period for counter-comments in this period you can support submissions by IFF, digital rights organisations and researchers who are calling for a complete roll back of these proposed changes.
- Step 1: Create a covering email with the subject, "Consultation on Proposed Changes to IT Rules", which reads for instance as:
"I support the attached spreadsheet which quotes from digital rights and research groups in their submissions against the unconstitutional provisions of The Information Technology Rules 2018 that will affect my business and the right to privacy and freedom of speech of my users. I call on you to recall the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules, 2011."
- Step 2: Attach the sheet of comments (PDF or Google Docs) by digital rights and research organisations.
- IFF's Guide to Tech Startups on the IT Rules (PDF or Google Docs).
- Sheet with extracts comments by digital rights and research organisations (PDF or Google Docs).
- IFF's post on the submission to MEITY. "Press reboot on the Intermediary Rules" #SaveOurPrivacy #RightToMeme
- Full text of IFF's submission to MEITY on the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules.
- Post revealing the proposed changes to the Intermediary Rules with initial analysis
IFF works hard to protect your rights. So all of us can use the most innovative technology that makes your life better without harming our fundamental freedoms. Together we are winning these battles. Help us! Donate right now!