Govt letter to Apple asking for IT Rules compliance withdrawn


Following the implementation of the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code — generally known as the IT Rules — on May 26, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is learnt to have written to Apple India in search of particulars on compliance with the brand new guidelines, particularly with respect to the US tech main’s proprietary messaging service.

The letter, nonetheless, was later withdrawn after the federal government reached an understanding that Apple’s iMessage wouldn’t be thought-about a ‘social media intermediary’ because it was not “primarily or solely” an instantaneous messaging service supplier for enabling interplay between two or extra customers, sources informed The Indian Express.

Neither Apple nor the IT Ministry responded to queries in search of to know whether or not iMessage fell underneath the purview of a ‘significant social media intermediary’ and whether or not the ministry had flagged this subject in its letter to Apple.

The authorities defines ‘social media intermediary’ as any platform which ‘primarily or solely’ permits and allows on-line interplay ‘between two or more users’, whereas additionally allowing these customers to ‘create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services’. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, Telegram, Signal and LinkedIn are among the many main social media intermediaries working in India.

On May 26, following the top of the 90-day interval for social media intermediaries to adjust to the IT Rules, the Ministry had written to all social media platforms in search of particulars of compliance corresponding to identify and speak to of the chief compliance officer, nodal contact individual and resident grievance officer as mandated by the principles.


A brand new gray space

The choice to omit Apple’s iMessage from being thought-about a big social media middleman might open up a gray space. In the US, Apple had refused to unlock a cellphone regardless of requests from the FBI.

The Ministry had, in its letter, additionally mentioned that if a platform thinks it’s not a big social media middleman, it should “provide the reasons for the same, including the registered users on each of the services” being provided by them. As per the brand new IT Rules, any social media middleman with greater than 5 million lively customers in India could be thought-about a ‘significant social media intermediary’.

Such firms, other than appointing executives in these roles, would even have to publish a month-to-month compliance report detailing the variety of complaints it acquired, the motion taken and the variety of complaints resolved.

Since Apple’s iMessage has greater than 25 million lively customers in India, it was initially deemed as coming underneath the purview of a ‘significant social media intermediary’. Sources, nonetheless, mentioned the Ministry reached a conclusion that since iMessage will not be a standalone messaging app that may be downloaded on any gadget, it’s not being thought-about as being “primarily or solely” an entity separate from Apple.

“Unlike other messaging apps like, say, WhatsApp, can anyone download iMessage on their phone and use it? If that logic is to be applied, even food delivery platforms, and especially gaming platforms provide an option of chatting with other gamers. Should they also be considered a social media intermediary then? The answer is no,” a senior authorities official mentioned.

Industry sources, nonetheless, mentioned that as per the rule of thumb of the IT Rules, no messaging platform will be out of the purview of compliance.

“This is not just about Apple. If you see clause (v) and (w), the moment you say that a company primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services, there is no way a messaging platform is out of it. Whether it comes coupled with a device or not, the fact is that iMessage is seen as a messaging service across the world,” a senior business govt mentioned, asking not to be named.

Clause (v) of the brand new IT Rules defines the brink for variety of customers, past which a social media middleman will likely be thought-about ‘significant’. Clause (w) talks concerning the definition of a social media middleman.

Industry sources additionally identified that if Apple’s iMessage will not be thought-about a big social media middleman, it should additionally imply that the rule associated to identification of the primary originator of the message shall not be relevant to the corporate.

“The lens is not on whether Apple is a significant social media intermediary, but whether, if asked by the government to track the first originator of a message, they will do so or not. If a law enforcement order which seeks details of a certain message is given to them tomorrow, can they deny saying that they do not fall under the purview of the new IT Rules? I do not think so,” one other business govt mentioned.


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