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Google will comply with India’s new IT Rules: Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed that the tech giant is committed to complying with India’s IT Rules 2021, The Economic Times reported on Thursday. The rules were notified on February 25, 2021, and the deadline to comply with them was May 25.

“It’s obviously early days and our local teams are very engaged. You know we comply with local laws and we will approach it with the same framework,” Pichai told The Economic Times.”We are committed to complying (with the laws). And to the extent, there are requests (for information on users) we comply with and we will include that in our transparency reports. It is a framework with which we will operate around the world,” he added.

Many of the provisions of the new laws, including the appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer, grievance officer and a nodal contact person, apply to significant social media intermediaries, which are entities with more than 5 million registered users. Google’s YouTube currently has over 452 million monthly active users in India. According to Google’s careers page, the company is currently looking to hire a CCO in India.

Many major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (Google) are yet to comply with the new rules. While Twitter is seeking a three months extension and public consultation for procedural aspects of the rules, WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government arguing that the rules are unconstitutional and beyond the scope of the parent Act.

What does it mean for platforms that do not comply?

In contrary to the misinformation floating around, non-compliant social media platforms will not be banned in the country. While the new IT Rules come into effect today, there is no provision either in the rules or in the parent act that specifies a ban for platforms that are non-compliant.

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The rules, however, specify that failure to comply will result in the intermediary losing safe harbour provisions guaranteed by Section 79(1) of the IT Act 2000, which exempt social media companies from liability for the content shared by its users.

But, it is unlikely that the government will enforce this immediately. The most likely scenario seems to be an extension to the deadline by the government. To know more about this issue, read our post on Why The IT Rules 2021 Won’t Lead To A Ban On Twitter, Instagram And Facebook, But The Power Imbalance Between Government, Platforms And Users Needs To Be Fixed.

What was Google’s earlier response?

When MediaNama first reached out to major social media platforms, Facebook told MediaNama that it was working towards complying with the rules, Google was not specific, and Twitter declined to comment. But after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sent a letter on Wednesday asking significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) to provide full details of the additional due diligence that they are required to comply with, Google and Twitter have provided a clearer answer on where they stand.

“We respect India’s legislative process and have a long history of responding to government requests to remove content where the content violates the local law or our product policies. We have consistently invested in significant product changes, resources, and personnel to ensure that we’re combating illegal content in an effective and fair way, and in order to comply with local laws in the jurisdictions that we operate in. We realize that our work in keeping our platforms secure is never done and we will continue to refine our existing approaches, and evolve our policies and be as transparent as possible about how we make decisions.” – Google’s earlier response (25 May 2021)

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