According to reports, the government has withdrawn a letter it sent to Apple India, asking it to learn more about the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics) Rules 2021 that came into effect earlier this year-commonly referred to as the new IT Rule year. Allegedly, the letter has been withdrawn after the government reached an understanding that Apple’s iMessage would not be considered a “social media intermediary”. The rule defines a social media intermediary that “mainly or only supports online interaction between two or more users, and allows them to use its services to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify, or access information.”
On May 26, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) sent a letter to all social media intermediaries seeking detailed information on compliance with the new IT rules. According to reports, Apple is one of these entities, but now claims to be not among them.
“India Express” quoted people familiar with the matter as reporting that the IT department found that iMessage was “not primarily or entirely an instant messaging service provider for interaction between two or more people.” However, this runs counter to the way Apple promotes its rich messaging service, as the company emphasizes its ability to interact with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac users.
IT rules also define social media platforms as “important social media intermediaries” with more than 5 million active users in India. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn all fall into this definition.
According to the Indian Express report, considering that iMessage has more than 25 million active users in the country, it was initially considered to be one of the important social media intermediaries. However, according to reports, MeitY later concluded that since Apple’s service is not a standalone messaging application that can be downloaded on any device, it is not considered a “primary or only” entity separate from the company.
“Unlike other messaging applications (such as WhatsApp), can anyone download iMessage on a mobile phone and use it? If this logic is to be applied, even a takeaway platform, especially a game platform, also provides other games The option for players to chat. So should they also be considered as social media intermediaries? The answer is no,” the newspaper quoted a senior government official as saying.
Allegedly, since the IT department has withdrawn the letter sent to Apple in order to comply with the new IT rules, it is unclear whether Apple is still responsible for providing traceability records of iMessage conversations, which is considered one of its distinctive features legal. The company does not seem to need to have local compliance, node and complaint officials in the country, because it is not considered an important social intermediary.
When this report was submitted, neither MeitY nor Apple responded to requests for comment on the matter.