Yesterday, Google published its maiden transparency report entitled the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 Monthly Transparency Report”. As the name suggests, the report has been published in line with the new social media and intermediary guidelines (“2021 IT Rules”) which mandate that intermediaries with over 5 million users (known as ‘significant social media intermediaries’) such as YouTube must disclose the number of complaints they have received and what action must be taken against them. This is the first of the compliance reports Google will publish on a monthly basis.
According to the 2021 IT Rules, platforms such as YouTube are also required to mention the specific communication links or parts of which they have removed or disabled access. The platforms must also proactively monitor this using automated tools. In its report, Google has also specifically stated that:
“Google is committed to keeping platforms safe. We consistently publish data that sheds light on how and why users raise complaints, how we respond to those complaints, how we enforce community guidelines and content policies, and how we comply with local laws to keep users safe.”
The Google compliance and transparency report under IT Rules 2021
In accordance with Section 4(d) of the 2021 IT Rules, significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) are specifically required to publish periodic compliance reports every month while mentioning the details of the complaints received and action taken thereon. This report has been published right after the parliamentary panel received confirmation from Google and Facebook regarding their willingness to comply with the 2021 IT Rules, on Tuesday. The new IT Rules were notified on the 25th of February, 2021, and came into force on May 26th.
This report is for the period between April 1 – April 30. As per this report, the number of complaints received by Google in this period was 27,762. Out of these complaints, 96.2% were copyright issues, 1.3% were trademark issues, 1% to defamation, 1% for other legal issues, 0.4% related to counterfeiting and lastly, 0.1% concerning circumvention. It was also stated that the number of removal actions taken by Google based on these complaints was 59.350. These numbers have been ascertained by taking each unique URL as one item because one complaint might relate to different pieces of content as well.
Compliance by Google, Facebook, and Twitter under IT Rules, 2021
Compliance with the 2021 IT Rules also applies to Indian intermediaries like Koo and ShareChat. These rules have been quite controversial in recent times, and so far, officials from Facebook, Google, and Twitter have deposed before the Shashi Tharoor-led parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology. With Google publishing its maiden compliance report yesterday, Facebook is next in line to do the same.
The social media giant is set to publish an interim compliance report tomorrow (July 2nd) with a final report coming out on July 15th. They have also updated their transparency report website for India. The final report will contain all the details regarding complaints received and actions taken by Facebook as well as Whatsapp, as mandated by the 2021 IT Rules. However, a Forbes India article claims that Facebook will get back to the committee after discussing a few compliance issues at a global level. The article also says that Facebook and Whatsapp have also appointed their respective grievance officers, while Google has not listed the name of an officer residing in India.
On the other hand, Twitter is yet to submit a written response to the parliamentary committee. Considering that the next meeting for deposition is scheduled for July 6th, Twitter will have to confirm its compliance with the 2021 IT Rules via the said written response.
“The government has concluded that Twitter in India is no longer an ‘intermediary’ and, therefore, cannot be provided the legal protection that is accorded to Internet intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.”via a quote from senior government officials to Indian Express