NEW DELHI: The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that it would finalise a new set of regulations by January-end to check misuse of the internet, which has the potential to cause “unimaginable disruption to democratic polity”. In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the Centre said it was working with due diligence to frame guidelines for internet intermediaries, ie companies, including internet service providers, search engines and social media platforms that facilitate use of internet and social media. In its affidavit, the ministry of electronics and IT said keeping in view the mischief that could be caused by misuse of internet, the government “felt that the extant rules (are) to be revised for effective regulation of intermediaries keeping in view the ever-growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security”. The ministry said in the last few years, there had been a massive increase in the use of social media. “With lower internet tariffs, availability of smart devices and last-mile connectivity, more and more people in India are becoming part of internet/social media platforms,” it said.
If on one hand, technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand, there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings and other unlawful activities using internet/social media platforms,” the ministry of electronics and IT said. Advocate Rajat Nair informed a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta about filing of the affidavit. The bench sought the timeline by which the proposed changes in guidelines would be notified. Nair said it would be finalised by January-end. The Centre said minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament on July 26, 2018 that the government would initiate measures, including amendments in the Intermediaries Guideline Rules, 2011, to make intermediaries more liable towards the content that is published and transmitted on their platforms.The ministry said it had sought public opinion on the draft Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018, by posting the proposed changes to the 2011 rules on its website. “In response to the draft rules, 171 comments were received by the ministry, which too were published on the website on February 4 to receive counter-comments,” it said, adding that the ministry has held several rounds of discussions with stakeholders and other relevant ministries.“After collating and analysing the details as they have emerged from stakeholders’ participation and inter-ministerial consultation, a further period of three months would be required for finalising and notifying the final revised rules,” it added.