The threat of termination of access does not induce a chilling effect on social media users, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology argued in a counter-affidavit defending the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, filed in the Madras High Court on September 3. ‘Instead’, the affidavit stated, ‘it causes users to be more vigilant and mindful while posting/sharing any content online, making the internet a safe place to communicate.’ Rule 3(1)(c) of the IT Rules 2021 states that social media intermediaries have the right to ‘terminate the access or usage rights of the users’ who post or share content that does not comply with the guidelines laid down under the rules. Carnatic musician TM Krishna had earlier filed a petition arguing that the IT Rules 2021 restricted the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, in response to which the ministry has now filed a counter-affidavit. From civil society members like Krishna to big tech firms like Whatsapp, many have alleged that the IT Rules are unconstitutional. There are currently 19 petitions filed against the legislation in high courts across the country. This is the first time that the government has mounted such a defence of the Rules. Do the IT Rules threaten Freedom of Expression? What the petition argued: Krishna had expressed concern that as a consequence of the IT Rules, ‘creators of content will self-censor themselves, and produce art that is acceptable to the state.’ To create such a…
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