New IT rules: Social media companies need to shut fake accounts within 24 hours of complaint

The Centre as part of its new IT rules, has mandated that top social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have to remove accounts with fake profile pictures of known personalities and businesses, and even the general subscriber, within 24 hours of being notified of the same by the user or someone on their behalf.

The decision is expected to end the threat of impersonation on social media in India.

Social media giants are required to act immediately after receiving a complaint. “For example, if a film actor, or a cricketer, or a politician, or any other user, objects to another person using his or her image/picture to gain followers or to make their messaging more visible, or to carry out any illegal act, then they are within their right to ask the companies to take down the account. Provisions to this effect have been included in the new IT Rules for social media companies, and they have to take remedial action within a day after being notified by a user,” the Times of India mentioned in a report citing official sources.

It has been observed that impersonators are a major threat for popular personalities, influencers, activists and even corporates/businesses as they mimic a legitimate account for various reasons. These may range from pure-play parody accounts, to those created for doing mischief or a crime, or to carry out a financial fraud. Some of these accounts are also created by fans of popular personalities, and some are also run through bots, the daily mentioned.

Apart from using an image of a popular personality as their profile picture, some fake account holders may also add their own image to a celebrity/politician’s picture by morphing the original content in order to claim proximity, and get favours.

All such accounts, while being fake, use a real picture or morphed images, and even carry content that is generally similar to the personality that they are targeting, a source told the publication. The IT ministry’s diktat comes under the grievance redressal mechanism that has been prescribed for social media platforms, and also makes it contingent on the firms to remove any content around nudity, obscenity, and sexual act or conduct within 24 hours after receiving a complaint by a user.

The new IT rules also make a mention of giving users the option to verify their accounts, but this is a voluntary exercise.


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