Facebook, Google to soon publish reports as required by new IT Rules

Technology giants Facebook Google will soon publish reports, as mandated by the new Information Technology Rules, providing information about the actions they took on user complaints in India.

While Facebook said on Tuesday it will publish an interim report on July 2 as mandated by the IT rules, Google will publish its transparency report as required under the new IT Rules in India.

“In accordance with the IT Rules, we’ll publish an interim report for the period May 15-June 15 on July 2. This report will contain details of the content that we have removed proactively using our automated tools. The final report will be published on July 15 containing details of user complaints received action taken. The report on July 15 will also contain data related to WhatsApp, which is currently being validated,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IT Rules, notified on February 25, ask significant social media intermediaries, or those with over 5 million users, to “publish periodic compliance report every month mentioning the details of complaints received action taken thereon, the number of specific communication links or parts of information that the intermediary has removed or disabled access to in pursuance of any proactive monitoring conducted by using automated tools or any other relevant information as may be specified”.

This was among the key issues that industry wanted clarity on in the new Rules. Many intermediaries were unclear about the format of these reports. A government official told Business Standard earlier that the compliance reports should have bare minimum details, on what type of content was removed or what other action was taken.

While most SSMIs publish annual or bi-annual transparency reports would most likely publish compliance reports in a similar pattern, there was little clarity on whether those would be compliant with the new Rules.

Another issue that SSMIs are awaiting clarity on is that of the quantum of time required before which a user needs to be informed about their content being taken down. The kind of content on which intermediaries are required to do so includes content of pornographic nature, paedophilic, infringes trademarks so on.

The government, it is understood, will bring out a standard operating procedure on the new IT Rules in consultation with industry stakeholders, addressing some of the concerns that have been raised by them.

In addition, the Ministry of Electronics Information Technology will be soon releasing a set of “frequently asked questions” to simplify the requirements in the Rules, on similar lines as done by the Ministry of Information Broadcasting a few days ago.

While the Rules apply to all social media companies, the largest ones among these are Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Twitter the like.

According to data provided by the government, India has 530 million WhatsApp users, 410 million Facebook users, 210 million people on Instagram, 17.5 million accounts on Twitter.

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