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7th July Current Affairs

New IT rules

In News:

The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that social media giant Twitter Inc has failed to comply with India’s new IT Rules (Came into force on 26th May), which is law of the land and is mandatorily required to be complied with.

Implications:

Any non-compliance amounts to breach of provisions of IT Rules, leading to Twitter losing its immunity as an “intermediary”.

A loss of its intermediary status, which provides its immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by it, makes it liable for criminal action in case of complaints.

What the rules say?

Twitter Inc is admittedly an ‘intermediary’ within the meaning of Section 2(1)(w) of IT Act, 2000, and an SSMI (Significant Social Media Intermediary) under the IT Rules 2021.

SSMIs are required to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal officer, and a grievance officer — all whom are required to be residents of India, according to the IT rules.

Background:

On February 25, the Centre framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, which will come into effect from May 26.

Overview of the new rules:

It mandates a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country. This is necessary for the users of social media to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media.

Significant social media firms have to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.

A grievance officer: Social media platforms will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and dispose of it in 15 days.

Removal of content: If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women – about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc – social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made.

A monthly report: They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.

There will be three levels of regulation for news publishers — self-regulation, a self-regulatory body, headed by a retired judge or an eminent person, and oversight from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, including codes of practices and a grievance committee.

NIPUN Bharat Programme

In News:

Union Education Minister launches NIPUN Bharat Programme.

About the Programme:

NIPUN stands for the National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy.

The Programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Education.

It will be implemented by the Department of School Education and Literacy.

Target: It has been envisioned for ensuring that every child in the country necessarily attains foundational literacy and numeracy by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27.

It will cover the learning needs of children in the age group of 3 to 9 years.

Implementation:

A five-tier implementation mechanism will be set up at the National- State- District- Block- School level in all States and UTs, under the aegis of the centrally sponsored scheme of Samagra Shiksha.

Focus areas:

The mission focuses on different domains of development like physical and motor development, socio-emotional development, literacy and numeracy development, cognitive development, life skills etc. for Holistic development of the child.

It is envisaged to support and encourage students, along with their schools, teachers, parents, and communities, in every way possible, to help realise the true potential of children and propel the country to new heights.

Key components and expected outcomes of NIPUN Bharat Mission:

Foundational skills enable to keep children in class thereby reducing the dropouts and improve transition rate from primary to upper primary and secondary stages.

Activity based learning and a conducive learning environment will improve the quality of education.

Innovative pedagogies such as toy-based and experiential learning will be used in classroom transactions thereby making learning a joyful and engaging activity.

Intensive capacity building of teachers will make them empowered and provide greater autonomy for choosing the pedagogy.

Section 66A of the IT Act

In News:

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre on the use of Section 66A of the IT Act that was scrapped several years ago and said that it is shocking that the judgment striking down the law has not been implemented even now.

What’s the issue?

Even after 7 years of the law being struck down, as of March 2021, a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the district courts in 11 states, wherein the accused persons are being prosecuted for offences under Section 66A of the IT Act.

Background:

Section 66A had been dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping. This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

Why SC struck down section 66A?

The SC had noted that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.

The court also said that the provision used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning.

What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another.

What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another.

Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

What is Section 66A all about?

Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.

Discrete auroras on Mars

In News:

The UAE’s Hope spacecraft, which is orbiting Mars since February this year, has captured images of glowing atmospheric lights known as discrete auroras.

Uniqueness of these auroras:

Unlike auroras on Earth, which are seen only near the north and south poles, discrete auroras on Mars are seen all around the planet at night time.

What causes an aurora on Earth?

Auroras are caused when charged particles ejected from the Sun’s surface — called the solar wind — enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

These particles are harmful, and our planet is protected by the geomagnetic field, which preserves life by shielding us from the solar wind.

However, at the north and south poles, some of these solar wind particles are able to continuously stream down, and interact with different gases in the atmosphere to cause a display of light in the night sky.

This display, known as an aurora, is seen from the Earth’s high latitude regions (called the auroral oval), and is active all year round.

Aurora borealis and australis:

In the northern part of our globe, the polar lights are called aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

In the south, they are called aurora australis or southern lights, and are visible from high latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

How are Martian auroras different?

Unlike Earth, which has a strong magnetic field, the Martian magnetic field has largely died out. This is because the molten iron at the interior of the planet– which produces magnetism– has cooled.

However, the Martian crust, which hardened billions of years ago when the magnetic field still existed, retains some magnetism.

So, in contrast with Earth, which acts like one single bar magnet, magnetism on Mars is unevenly distributed, with fields strewn across the planet and differing in direction and strength.

These disjointed fields channel the solar wind to different parts of the Martian atmosphere, creating “discrete” auroras over the entire surface of the planet as charged particles interact with atoms and molecules in the sky– as they do on Earth.

Significance:

Studying Martian auroras is important for scientists, for it can offer clues as to why the Red Planet lost its magnetic field and thick atmosphere– among the essential requirements for sustaining life.