New Delhi: Digital news organisations and OTT platforms will now have to follow the broad content guidelines meant for TV and print media, while social media intermediaries will have to set up a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve complaints from users.
Both digital media and OTT platforms will also have to set up a grievance redressal system to decide on specific complaints over content, according to a new set of rules released by the Modi government Thursday.
The rules also empowers the I&B secretary to block public access to specific content in case of an emergency.
Digital news websites will have to follow the programme code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act and Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India, which broadly guide the content put out in television and print media.
These are part of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, released by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar at a press conference.
The rules mandate OTT platforms to classify their 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, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.
According to the rules, the platforms will have to put in place other access control mechanisms, prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme — together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content.
They should also put in place viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme, enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme, according to a government statement.
Also read: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, digital news media brought under I&B ministry jurisdiction
3-tier grievance redressal mechanism
The new rules mandate both video streaming platforms and online news media to set up a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
This will have self-regulation by publishers, a self-regulating body headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge and an inter-ministerial committee — to be formed by the government — to look at specific complaints and recommend action against the violation.
The action could include a warning or reprimand to the platforms or directing it to block or delete the specific content.
The rules further state the I&B secretary can also decide to block public access to a specific content without giving the platform an opportunity of hearing, in case of an emergency.
Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000, allows the Centre to block public access to an intermediary “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above”.
The government statement said there have been widespread concerns about issues relating to digital content both on online media and OTT platforms.
“Civil society, film-makers, political leaders, trade organisations and associations have all voiced their concerns and highlighted the imperative need for an appropriate institutional mechanism,” the statement said.
The government also received many complaints from parents requesting interventions.
“There were many court proceedings in the Supreme Court and high courts, where courts also urged the government to take suitable measures,” it said.
Guidelines for intermediaries
A separate set of guidelines was also announced for online intermediaries, including social media intermediaries.
The new rules mandate the online intermediaries to establish a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve complaints from the users or victims.
It stated that intermediaries shall appoint a ‘Grievance Officer’ to deal with such complaints, and share the name and contact details of such officers.
The Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.
The rules stated that intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of content that exposes the private areas of individuals, including women, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation, including morphed images, etc.
The rules also make a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries, which is based on the number of users on the social media platforms.
Significant social media intermediaries will have to follow additional due diligence.
The rules also stated that an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government authority 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.
Also read: Upset we’re not being consulted, OTT platform body says about govt ‘plan’ to frame guidelines
My country, my rules!
The Indian Government has announced some rules to regulate social media, OTT and digital media companies. Known as the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the rules intend to reign in Big Tech.
Social media companies have come under a lot of scrutiny owing to their history of regulatory violations. Following the Christchurch shooting live-stream on Facebook in New Zealand, an agreement among 48 countries and tech companies emerged.
The UK Government is also inching closer to introducing legislation to regulate content. Germany already has high standards for regulation and historic strength in managing hate speech. Countries around the world are trying to restrain the power of big tech companies to minimise the ills the bring. Will India’s approach work?
Good. They should introduce new measures for funding to bring parity between print media & online news media like the wire , newsweek etc . because their funding is shody and many of these Organisation vastly funded by Foreigners , they are shopisticated money laundering Organisation working as digital news Organisation
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