Technology is fast evolving in India and our laws are trying to do the catch up thing. With introduction of new technologies, products and services on regular basis, a tension has built up between various stakeholders. A single incidence upon a social media platform can have multiple rippling effects on various stakeholders. For instance, someone posts a fake and violence inciting news on a social media platform and it spreads like fire. Till the time it is proved that such a news is fake, the damage is already done. There is no fool proof method to prevent such fake and damaging news and messages, but a basic level ecosystem can be developed to minimise the impact of such negative social media feeds.
This requirement of basic ecosystem is no more a need but has become a mandatory legal obligation on the part of Internet Intermediaries like social media portals, tech companies providing online services, search engines, online news portals, messaging applications, video and audio communication applications and services, etc. The list is just illustrative as many more categories are also covered by the legal mandates of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Internet Intermediary Rules 2021) (Pdf). The Rules have also differentiated between a social media intermediary and a significant social media intermediary and has specified (Pdf), through a separate notification, fifty lakh registered users in India as the threshold for a social media intermediary to be considered a significant social media intermediary. These notifications have become operational from 25th February, 2021 and this has a direct bearing upon the responsibilities and legal compliance obligations of significant social media intermediary that they have to manage within 3 months from that date.
Rule 2(1)(j) of the Intermediary Rules 2021 provides that a ‘grievance’ includes any complaint, whether regarding any content, any duties of an intermediary or publisher under the Act, or other matters pertaining to the computer resource of an intermediary or publisher, as the case may be. This is a very wide definition that is applicable to both social media intermediary and a significant social media intermediary. By virtue of Rule 2(1)(w) of the Intermediary Rules 2021 a ‘social media intermediary’ means an intermediary which primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services. So a social media intermediary has two or more users but less than fifty lakh users. The moment that threshold of fifty lakh is crossed, the social media intermediary becomes a significant social media intermediary who has to comply with more stringent legal compliance. Above all, there is nothing that prevents the Central Govt to apply the stringent compliance requirements of a significant social media intermediary to a social media intermediary if it deems it fit.
The Intermediary Rules 2021 are very complicated in nature and even big firms and companies would find it difficult to completely comply with their mandates. There are many small social media companies and few large social media companies that have a user base in India. While the larger social media companies still have time till the month of May 2021 to ensure stringent compliance with the Intermediary Rules, 2021 yet these large social media companies, smaller social media companies and other Internet Intermediaries are already required to comply with other provisions of the Intermediary Rules since 25th Feb 2021. Most social media companies are not complying with the same and they are relaxed right now as Indian users have not started filing grievances, complaints, etc with them. But the same is going to change very soon and Internet Intermediaries must be well prepared in advance. May be some Internet Intermediaries have already started the process to resolve disputes, grievance, complaints, etc of Indian users but only time would tell about their efficacy and utility.
The good news is that ODR India project of Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) has launched the first ever techno legal online dispute resolution (ODR) portal of the world. The ODR Portal is resolving disputes and grievances for multiple fields and social media is one of them. The detailed procedure to use the ODR Portal has been provided here and after login into the portal, select social media from the drop down menu of help topics. Create your ODR Request to resolve your grievance or dispute or complaint with any social media company having Indian user base. Both registration and techno legal ODR services of ODR Portal are free and only nominal Administrative Fee is charged to resolve all disputes and grievances. This is a user side remedy and option and even social media companies can avail our services.
Social media companies can engage us on a retainership or per case basis. Once that is done, all grievances, disputes and complaints can be handled through the ODR Portal. Small social media companies and Internet Intermediaries could be significantly benefited due to this arrangement as they can manage the cyber law due diligence and Internet Intermediary obligations without spending big money on external experts or for managing an internal team. Consider the ODR Portal as an extension of your company for grievances, disputes and complaints purposes. It is a wonderful opportunity for any company having an online presence and it should not be missed. You can contact us with your requirements and we would formulate a plan for you that would work for your benefits.
We look forward to have multiple stakeholders on our board so that their grievances and dispute resolution can be as easy, effective, economical and expeditious as possible.