Govt announces new guidelines for social media, says platforms will be required to disclose originator of 'mischievous' message

The government on Thursday announced new rules to curb misuse of social media platforms, as it mandated firms to appoint grievance officer, disclose the first originator of the mischievous information and remove, within 24 hours, content depicting nudity or morphed pictures of women.

Concerns have been raised about rampant abuse of social media platforms and spread of fake news and the government is bringing in a "soft touch" regulation, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said while announcing the new guidelines.

As per the new rules, social media intermediaries have to appoint grievance officer, who shall register complaints in 24 hours. The grievance redressal official must be resident in India, and monthly compliance reports will have to be filed by social media platforms.

While announcing the new social media guidelines, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the social media platforms will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet.

"Social media platforms upon being asked either by a court order or a government authority will be required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message as the case may be," Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

"This should be only in relation to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, relations with foreign states, or rape, sexually explicit content etc," he added.

Briefing the media about the development, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that though the government welcomes criticism and the right to dissent, "but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media." He said that concerns have been raised over the years about rampant abuse of social media, and the Ministry has held widespread consultations and prepared a draft in December 2018.

"There'll be two categories, intermediary which can be social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary. They will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism, you will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days," he said.

"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 - they will be required to remove that within 24 hrs after a complaint is made. This is designed to respect the dignity of women," he added.

Prasad said that significant social media has to do three things, "First, they will have to have a chief compliance officer residing in India responsible for ensuring compliance of the act and the rules. Second is a nodal contact person who should reside in India for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Also, they have to appoint a resident grievance officer who shall perform the grievance redressal mechanism as indicated. They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal," he stated.

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