Requirements of Due Diligence and Account Verification on Social Media

Requirements of Due Diligence and Account Verification on Social Media for compliance with the Information and Technology (IT) Rules, have been explained by Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, in a written response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on December 9, 2022.

Requirements of Due Diligence and Account Verification on Social Media

Users’ privacy is typically considered to be protected when the platform in question allows for anonymous usage. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (also referred to as “IT Rules”), on the other hand, place specific requirements on intermediaries to ensure accountability. These requirements include the need for significant social media intermediaries to exercise due diligence. They will no longer be exempt from their legal obligations for third-party information or data or communication links hosted by them if they fail to exercise the level of diligence that is required of them, which is due diligence.

The policies enacted by the government are geared toward providing internet users with an online environment that is open, safe, trustworthy, and accountable. Because of the expansion of the internet and the growing number of people in India who are using it, users are putting themselves in a greater danger of suffering some kind of damage as a result of making inappropriate use of cyberspace.

In addition, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“IT Rules”) were enacted by the Central Government in accordance with the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act”) in order to contribute to the realisation of the objective of ensuring an Internet that is Open, Safe, Trusted, and Accountable.

Regarding the proper verification of social media accounts and the terms of any paid services they provide, the government has advised that the IT Rules’ due diligence requirements for a social media intermediary include prominently publishing on its website and/or mobile app and notifying users of its user agreement in English or any other language listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, in the language of use, in the interest of transparency. Additionally, such requirements include enabling its users to voluntarily verify their accounts and providing such accounts with visible marks of verification for a social media intermediary that has more than 50 lakh registered users in India.

It is essential to be aware that violating section 66D of the Information Technology Act can result in a fine of up to one lakh rupees and a prison sentence of up to three years. This knowledge can help mitigate the potential damage that can be caused by fake accounts. This is due to the fact that section 66D makes it a crime to assume the identity of another person (impersonating) while making use of any communication tool or computer resource. As a result of the fact that the offence falls under the category of cognizable offences, the state police departments take the necessary preventative and prosecutorial actions.

The following is also included in the due diligence demanded of an intermediary under the IT Rules in order to address the risk posed by fake accounts and further the goal of ensuring an Open, Safe, Trusted, and Accountable Internet:

(i) To make reasonable efforts to prevent users from hosting, displaying, uploading, changing, publishing, transmitting, storing, updating, or sharing, among other things, information that deceives or misleads the addressee about the message’s origin or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation or information that is patently false and untrue or misleading in nature, or assumes the identity of another person;

(ii) To not host, store, or publish illegal information that is prohibited by law in relation to defamation, the interest of public order, decency, or morality, or incitement to an offence related to these, voluntarily or upon actual knowledge on receipt of a grievance, court order, or notice from the appropriate government or its agency, in the event of a violation of the foregoing;

(iii) To provide information or assistance for prevention, detection, investigation, or legal prosecution upon receiving a request from a duly authorised government agency; and

(iv) To establish a system for handling complaints and to respond to allegations of rule violations within 72 hours of receiving them.

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