Event Report

On 26 June 2020, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and the India Internet Multistakeholder Coalition (India IMSC) hosted a multistakeholder roundtable discussion to examine key provisions of the Indian Draft Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 (“the Draft Amendments”) through the lens of international human rights law and principles. The event featured representatives from civil society, academia, the legal community, local and multinational internet and telecommunications companies and industry associations, as well as Indian policymakers. A detailed report of the event is available here.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (“MeitY”) first introduced the Draft Amendments in 2018. These amendments suggested changes in the existing due diligence standards and corresponding safe harbor provisions for Internet intermediaries in India under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. GNI previously highlighted elements of the Draft Amendments that could pose risks for information and communication technology (ICT) users’ freedom of expression and privacy, including vague definitions; rapid and sometimes arbitrary deadlines for compliance with removal orders and assistance demands; and requirements for government-ordered, proactive filtering and tracing of content, among other issues. The official notification of the rules has been pending since January 2019, and it is still unclear when they will be finalized.

Ahead of the roundtable, a draft of GNI’s forthcoming policy brief, “Content Regulation and Human Rights in the Digital Age,”  was shared with participants. The brief, which is the result of more than a year’s work by GNI’s multistakeholder membership, uses the lens of international human rights law to analyze a dozen different initiatives to address harmful content online. The brief was used to frame the discussion, which focused in particular on the international law principles of legality, legitimacy, and proportionality that should underpin any restriction on freedom of expression. 

Content regulation initiatives continue to emerge worldwide, sometimes being crafted in ways that pose risks for ICT users’ digital rights. GNI believes proactive and honest multi-stakeholder conversations on this topic are key to ensuring that responses to digital harms are legal, proportionate, and fit-for-purpose. GNI looks forward to further consultations on India’s draft amendments and other content regulation efforts.

We would like to thank Prasanth Sugathan, Kushagra Sinha, Mamta Verma, and the entire team of the Software Freedom Law Centre, India, for co-sponsoring and coordinating this event. We would also like to thank Gurshabad Grover and Smitha Prasad for their significant contributions. 

The conversation was held under the Chatham House Rule. Nothing in this report is attributed to any individual, institution, or affiliation, nor does it necessarily reflect GNI’s position.