The Modi government Thursday unveiled a set of guidelines for OTT and social media platforms to adhere by, after calls to regulate the digital space were being received since long. With the announcement of the OTT and social media guidelines, the Modi government has set in place a three-tier self-regulatory mechanism for online content publishers, and also specifically designed new classification ratings for OTT platforms for categorisation of content. Reported by TFI on Thursday, the new guidelines have been announced after a unanimous call by Hindus to regulate OTT platforms who have been spewing venom for years now.
The new guidelines will also curb the menace of fake news, by resting accountability for such content with the publishers, who will have to set in place multiple checks to ensure that only verified and true news is put out in the digital space. The new guidelines will especially make sure that foreign social media companies, who have been having it too good for too long, behave themselves while operating in India.
Released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY), the draft is called the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The Rules will come in effect from the date of their publication in the gazette, except for the additional due diligence for significant social media intermediaries, which shall come in effect three months after publication of the Rules.
“The social media platform will be asked to reveal the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message as the case may be and this should only be in the connection to integrity and sovereignty of India,” IT minister Ravi Shankar said. “Posts relating to offences related to the sovereignty of India, security, relations with other states and rape must be removed. If you disable content of a user you must give him reasons,” he added, revealing the government’s intention of not letting seditious content float freely on social media. Further, for the minister to emphasise that platforms must cite reasons for disabling content/accounts of users is a signal to Twitter and its likes to not dare stifle conservative voices in India henceforth.
In a step which will ensure that the digital space is made safe for women, posts regarding their dignity will be ordered to be removed in 24 hours of receipt of complaints of content that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.
OTT platforms, meanwhile, must classify content for online curated content platforms under a universal rating (U), U/A seven plus, U/A thirteen plus, U/A sixteen plus and Adult, for people over 18. The classifications will have to be prominently displayed, and the platforms must also formulate and enable access control mechanisms, including parental locks, for content for those over 13. Additionally, a three-tier regulation system will be put in place to ensure that OTT and social media platforms abide by the said rules.
The three-tier system will consist of a self-regulatory mechanism, under which a grievance redressal system will also be set up. The details of the grievance redressal officer must be prominently displayed by the platform. The second tier or the self-regulatory body will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court. An appeal may be referred to this body if a person believes his or her complaint has not been appropriately addressed. Finally, at the top of this system will be an inter-ministerial committee, which will be empowered with the authority of taking suo moto cognisance of issues, and recommend the blocking of content in contravention of the Code. The committee will have representatives from the ministries of information technology, information and broadcasting, home, law, external affairs, defence, and women and child development.
The Modi government’s draft guidelines will ensure that accountability is instated with social media companies, OTT platforms and online news media outlets. It was high time that social media be brought under a self-regulatory framework, and the same has been done in a very progressive manner by the Centre.