79 in Action

The following links demonstrate the varied aspects pertaining to the actual working of Section 79 of IT Amendment Act

Section 79 in Action [1]

The amended Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 gives the intermediaries

protection from liabilities that could arise out of any legal action initiated on the basis of user

generated content. The intermediaries get protection from legal liability that could arise from any action of users that is considered illegal as per the IT Act, 2000 or any other legislation.

The new intermediary rules mandate the intermediaries to impose a set of rules and regulations on users. The rules further specify the terms of such regulations and this includes a broad list of categories of content which should not be posted by users.

The broad list of unlawful content includes information that is grossly harmful, harassing,

blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s

privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever. These words are too ambiguous and result in broad interpretation.

Now, any person aggrieved by any content on the internet can ask the intermediaries to take down such content. Intermediaries are obliged to remove access to such content within a period of 36 hours from the time of receipt of the complaint. The rules do not provide for the creator of the content to respond to this complaint. In fact, the rules do not even provide for the intermediaries to inform the user who posted the content regarding the complaint. The intermediaries that do not comply with take-down notice loses the protection from any legal liability that could arise over user content.

The rules also deal with government’s power to access user information from the intermediary and the power of the intermediary to disconnect user access. The Rules mandate that intermediaries have to co-operate with government agencies and provide information to them for the purpose of verification of identity, or for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution etc when a request has been made by the agency in writing. The Intermediary also has to inform the user that in case of violation of any rules and regulations, user agreement or privacy policy; the intermediary shall terminate the access to its service.

These rules, although titled as guidelines for intermediaries, in effect result in restricting the users by controlling their use of the services offered by intermediaries.

[1] ‘Intermediaries, users and the law – Analysing intermediary liability and the IT Rules’ (Software Freedom Law Center 2012) <https://sflc.in/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/eBook-IT-Rules.pdf>