The new millennium saw a transition in the form of internet culture - a new way
of living. The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives,
providing new avenues for communication, making friends, chatting, talking,
sending messages, social networking, exchanging news and views, playing games,
connecting with the government, and conducting e-commerce.
The expanding usage of the internet has resulted in the emergence of a new
category of crimes known as cyber crimes, which are defined as crimes committed
with or through the use of a computer in cyberspace and may include the
- causing damage to the computer or computer network
- committing theft of computer data or software
- gaining unauthorized access to computer data
- credit/debit card fraud
- fraudulent stock transfers, electronic funds transfers, and e-commerce
- internet hacking, which involves the theft of data, passwords, and
credit card details from the internet.
- sending threats, defamation, extortion, and intimidation via e-mails
- publication of pornographic material
- illicit gambling
- pirated software
- data theft
Information Technology Act
In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (No. 21 of 2000) was enacted to
provide legal recognition for transactions involving electronic data interchange
and other forms of electronic communication, commonly referred to as e-commerce,
that involve the use of alternative methods of communication and storage of
information to paper-based methods, and to facilitate electronic filing of
documents with government agencies and other entities, colloquially referred to
The Act has been amended by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 55 of
2002, the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 10 of 2009, and the Finance
Act, 2017. (Act 7 of 2017). This Act is a comprehensive law intended to promote
the appropriate use of the internet and related technology for e-government and
e-commerce. Additionally, it defines criminal and civil punishments for cyber
offences committed in India.
Cyber Laws and Cyber Crimes
The confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information in cyberspace
are critical components of a safe cyber environment. Allowing intermediaries to
intervene only on the basis of individual complaints about defamation or being
the target of unfair reporting will have a chilling effect on free speech. If
legalized, this type of meddling would result in the privatization of
censorship, putting free expression at risk. The 2009 amendment to the IT Act
recognizes the intermediary's role as a mere facilitator of information exchange
Under section 79 of the Act, anyone who has been affected by the internet
posting of defamatory material may bring a takedown reference.
Section 69A authorizes the Central Government to restrict access by issuing
instructions to any intermediary if the Central Government determines that doing
so is necessary for the sake of sovereignty, among other things. The 2009
Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Preventing Public Access
to Information) Rules govern the subject.
Social media platforms and the Information Technology Act
According to a press release issued by the Government of India's Press
Information Bureau on 25th February 2021 regarding the Information Technology
(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, it was noted
that widespread use of mobile phones, the internet, and other technologies has
also enabled many social media platforms to expand their footprints in India.
These platforms are also heavily utilized by the general population. Certain
portals that do an analysis of social media platforms and have not been
contested have provided the following figures for the user base of India's major
social media platforms:
- 53 Crore WhatsApp users
- YouTube subscribers: 44.8 million
- 41 million Facebook users
- The number of Instagram users has surpassed 21 million.
- Total number of Twitter users: 1.75 million
These social media platforms, sometimes known as social media intermediaries,
have enabled everyday Indians to express their creativity, ask questions, keep
informed, and freely share their ideas, including criticism of the government
and its officials.
Additional platforms include online news and digital media sites, as well as
over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. OTT stands for
'over-the-top,' suggesting that the content provider delivers television and
cinema content to consumers via the internet at their request and according to
their preferences. As a necessary component of democracy, the Government
recognizes and respects each Indian's right to criticize and dissent.
India has the world's largest open Internet society, and the government actively
promotes social media companies to establish operations, conduct business, and
earn profits in the country. They will, however, be held accountable under
Indian law and the Constitution. Digital India has evolved into a movement
aiming at empowering everyday Indians via the use of technology.
On the one hand, the growth of social media empowers citizens, but on the other
hand, it creates some significant difficulties and consequences that have
multiplied in recent years. These concerns have occasionally been aired in a
variety of venues, including the Parliament and its committees, judicial orders,
and civil society dialogues in various sections of the country. Similar concerns
have been aired elsewhere, and the issue has become global in scope.
A number of exceedingly alarming trends have been reported recently on social
media platforms. Numerous media sources have created fact-checking procedures in
response to the constant propagation of fake news. Women's dignity has
frequently been jeopardized by the extensive use of social media to post altered
photos of women and content associated with revenge porn.
The abuse of social media to settle business disputes in flagrantly unethical
ways has become a major cause of concern for businesses. Through platforms, we
are seeing an increase in instances of harsh language, libelous and obscene
content, and willful disregard for religious sensitivities. Over the years, the
increased use of social media by criminals and anti-national groups has created
new challenges for law enforcement organizations.
These activities include recruiting terrorists, spreading obscene information,
causing strife, committing financial fraud, instigating violence, and disturbing
public order. It was discovered that there is currently no robust complaint
mechanism in place through which regular users of social media and over-the-top
(OTT) platforms can make a complaint and have it resolved within a certain time
Due to a lack of transparency and the absence of an effective grievance system,
users have been fully dependent on the whims and fancies of social media
platforms. Frequently, a user who has spent time, effort, and money developing a
social media profile is left with no remedy if the platform restricts or deletes
the profile without providing an opportunity to be heard.
As social media intermediaries evolve, they frequently transition from pure
mediator to publisher. These Rules find the optimal balance between liberalism
and a moderate framework of self-regulation. It is based on current regulations
and statutes in the country that apply to all forms of content, whether online