Big Tech companies have been in conflict with governments across the world for quite some time now. In India, even as the Centre introduced new rules for social media and digital content, earlier this year on February 25, and gave a three-month deadline to all social media and OTT (Over The Top) platforms to comply with them, many are yet to do so.
What do the rules suggest?
According to the centre, the rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT platforms and digital media.
Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe norms of journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby, providing a level playing field between the offline (print, TV) and digital media
The rules direct online platforms to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours. Social media platforms will be required to reveal the originator of any post which threatens to harm the sovereignty, security of the nation.
In addition to that, OTT platforms would be required to self-classify the content into five-age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+ and A (Adult), and implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher
Additional compliances include the appointment of an India based Grievance Redressal Officer who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received, a chief compliance officer who ensures compliance with the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Intermediaries Rules along with a nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies
Moreover, an oversight mechanism will include a committee with representatives from, Foreign Affairs, Home, I&B, Law, Defense, Information Technology and Development of Women and Children. The committee will have "suo moto powers" to convene hearings on complaints of violation of the Code of Ethics if required.
Why were they introduced?
The 2021 rules have originated from section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and were drafted by the centre with help from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Their purpose was to hold social and digital media companies accountable for the content published on their websites.
What if the companies fail to comply?
According to the government, any social media intermediary with 50 lakh registered users is a ''significant social media intermediary'' and would have to comply with the regulations. On failing to do so, they liable to criminal prosecution and their status as intermediaries may cease.
How have companies responded?
Companies with headquarters in the US have asked for more time to make a decision. However, an Indian messaging platform Koo has reportedly complied with the new rules. More recently, on Tuesday, Facebook reportedly said that it "aims to comply" with the new guidelines.