Mandates of Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy are as follows:
In a letter to the government of India, UN special Rapporteurs expressing Appreciation of the Indian government’s commitment to ensuring social media intermediaries are more accountable and transparent in their operations it expressed serious concerns that some part of due diligence obligations may violate a wide range of human rights.
It further urged the government of India to “withdraw, review and reconsider some provisions of rules to ensure that rules comply with government’s international human rights obligations”
Recalling the provisions of article 19, article 19(3), and article 20 of the international covenant on civil and political rights(ICCPR) it is expressed that “the responsibility of the state to regulate expressions that meet requirements of article 19(3) and Article 20 is appreciated but adoption of broadly defined legislation which may result in undue restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression is cautioned against”
Further regarding terms as to content such as “racially ethnically objectionable” “harmful to children and so on,” it expressed concern that “the terms are overly broad and lack sufficiently clear definitions which may lead to arbitrary application.”
Further supporting encryption as an effective technical safeguard to right to privacy rapporteurs expressed notable concerns about section 4 of IT rules as the provision of section 4 empower executive authorities to give orders to access to user data and restrict content without any judicial oversight mechanism that would hold authorities accountable.
Lastly, it expressed concerns that the application of rules to any social media intermediary but not just significant social media intermediary under section 6 of IT rules poses a serious risk to freedom of expression and also the right to privacy.
Concerns regarding media freedom:
Rapporteurs expressed that “broad powers given to the executive authorities without judicial oversight compromise-free flow of information which is protected under Article 19(2) of the ICCPR.”
It is further opined that “rules grant government agency extensive powers to order blocking in the absence of adequate safeguards which violates of international safeguards.”
The letter, in conclusion, expressed that for all the reasons mentioned the government is encouraged to take all necessary steps to carry out a detailed review of IT rules and consult all relevant stakeholders and ensure that the final text is compatible with India’s international obligations in particular to provisions of article 17 and 19 of ICCPR.”
The government in reply to the above letter expressed that “ the new IT rules are designed to empower ordinary users and are framed taking into account principles of reasonableness and accountability.”