Union government begins discussion for fresh IT law sights at stalking to social media

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The fresh Act is also likely to emphasize issues that cover “newer and innovative aspects of technology”, such as blockchain, bitcoin, and darknet, among others. The Union government has begun a new round of discussions for a completely new IT law “to deal with present and future circumstances”. According to the report in the news, senior government officials said, when put in place, it “will subsume all these rules”, including the setting up of a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, and officers. “Our goal is to ensure compliance. If there can be compliance without litigation, why not do that?”. One of the officials told the media that "The old IT Act of 2000 was drawn up mainly keeping in mind prevention of simple fraud, blocking of websites and illegal content of different kinds that existed then. A lot has changed. It would not make sense to amend the old Act. We would rather introduce a new law to deal with present and future circumstances that may arise".

“Right now, there is no legal definition of what consists of online bullying, or stalking, or the exact penal provision for other forms of sexual harassment such as making unwanted comments, morphing photos, releasing or posting private photos without someone’s consent. The intermediaries are doing it, but it is on a case-to-case basis approach. A pan-India law is needed,” an official said. The new IT Act will also increase the onus on intermediaries for the content present and posted on their platform. “The protection that Section 79 (of the current IT Act) offers is too wide-ranging. A social media intermediary cannot claim protection if it does not proactively work on removing illegal content on its platforms such as porn, nudity, or messages that facilitate terror and disruption,” an official said. Another huge switch, which may also feature in the new Data Protection Law that is in the works, is a strict ‘age-gating’ policy, which will require the consent of parents when children sign up for social media websites. This plan has been opposed by social media intermediaries but officials said the Central Government wants to ensure that children below 18 are “protected and feel safe on the internet”. This issue came into the limelight after new rules for social media intermediaries under the Information Technology Act of 2000 which sparked a row with Facebook and Twitter.