Social media platforms
Social media platforms

The government on Thursday notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 to regulate digital content, including social media, online news and OTT platforms. The guidelines have been framed in 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, the government said in a statement. It has been done amidst growing concerns around lack of transparency, accountability and rights of users related to digital media and after elaborate consultation with the public and stakeholders, it said.

While finalizing these Rules, both the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook elaborate consultations among themselves in order to have a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism in relation to social media platform as well as digital media and OTT platforms etc, a statement issued by the Central Government said.

The proposed framework is progressive, liberal and contemporaneous and has been framed keeping in mind the difference between viewership in a theatre and television as compared to to watching it on Internet, it said.Here are the highlights of guidelines framed by the Centre:

Guidelines for social media

The social media intermediaries will have to deligently follow the rules prescribed by the ministry of Electronics and IT.

As per the rules, a grievance redressal mechanism must be established for receiving and resolving complaints from the users or victims. Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer, the officer shall be expected to acknowledge the issue within 24-hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.

Intermediaries shall remove or disable access withing 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, obscene content, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc. A complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf in such case.

The social media intermediary will have to appoint India-based compliance officers, Nodal Contact Person, Resident Grievance Officer. A Chief Compliant Officer shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules, while Nodal contact person shall 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and a Resident Grievance Officer shall perform the functions mentioned under Grievance Redressal Mechanism.

Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with demonstrable and visible mark of verification.

An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.

Guidelines for Online News 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 which shall provide a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media

Similarly like social media, an India based Grievance Redressal Officer shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by the publishers. He shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.

There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publisher headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. It will address grievances that have not be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

Guidelines for OTT platform

The OTT shares some similar guidelines with the Online News Media.

Focusing on the content, the OTT platforms shall have to self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.

It will also display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content.

A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation. (also for Online News Media)

Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;

Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;

Level-III: Oversight mechanism.

The grievance redressal mechanism and the self regulatory body will follow similar system and guidelines as applied to the online news media.

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