In a statement on April 8, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said that social media takedown notices should be sent by the government lawfully. This comes as the government has urged social media companies to rapidly deal with misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. IAMAI’s members include Facebook, Google (and YouTube), Twitter, TikTok owner ByteDance, and Sharechat.

“IAMAI highlighted that since content on these platforms are not created by the platforms, the liability of creating/generating misinformation lies with social media users and not the platform themselves. While the platforms have taken positive steps to restrict the spread of fake news, any form of takedown of content will still have to come via proper legal notices as determined by existing legal provisions. The platforms on their part are often actively engaging with such relevant authorities to facilitate a more co-operative mechanism in this regard.” [emphasis ours]

The “existing legal provisions” are guided by the Intermediary Guidelines Rules under the IT Act, whose amendments are currently being considered. Even under the proposed amendments, the social media companies would need a court order or notification “by the appropriate Government or its agency under Section 79(3)(b)”. Intermediaries would also be expected to proactively take down “unlawful information or content”. To trace the originator as well, only “legally authorised” government agencies can seek such information through a “lawful order”.

“The association has communicated to the Ministry of [Electronics and] Information and Technology and Ministry of Home Affairs with details of measures taken by its member social media platforms over misinformation during present times of crisis,” IAMAI added. Social media companies meet with officials from the Home Ministry and MEITY regularly, but it is not clear if those meetings are still taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.