The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has notified amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 (“2021 Rules”) on January 17, 2023. The proposed amendment to the Rule 3 (1)(b)(v) now reads as (with the proposed amendment highlighted in bold):
… (v) deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation or information which is patently false and untrue or misleading in nature [or is identified as fake or false by the fact check unit at the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking or, in respect of any business of the Central Government, by its department in which such business is transacted under the rules of business made under clause (3) of article 77 of the Constitution];’
The purpose of this amendment seems to be placing an added obligation on an intermediary to ensure that the users of its services do not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that has been identified as fake or false by the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The amendment could turn out to be controversial since it only recognises the fact checking done by its agencies (and not third-party entities/websites).
This notification has come in the wake of several key amendments proposed by the Ministry as regards online gaming and its regulation (which also form part of these IT Rules, 2021). It is pertinent to note that the Ministry, in light of the latest amendments has provided an extended timeline until January 25, 2023 to allow stakeholders to submit their comments and feedbacks regarding the proposed amendments.