Amidst growing concerns around lack of transparency, accountability and rights of users related to digital media the government of India has framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 to ensure that the Social media and OTT platforms follow the set laws and adhere to the Constitution of India.
The rules framed after both the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook elaborate consultations with the public and stakeholders, and 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, says the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MID) press release.
MIB says that these Rules substantially empower the ordinary users of digital platforms to seek redressal for their grievances and command accountability in case of infringement of their rights.
The new measures will require big social media companies to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and appoint executives to coordinate with law enforcement, the government said in a news statement.
The government said the guidelines in its code of digital media ethics were needed to hold social media and other companies accountable for misuse and abuse.
Social media firms should be “more responsible and accountable,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister for information technology, told reporters in outlining the rules.
Facebook said it welcomes rules that prescribe ways to address challenges on the web. “The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules,” it said in a statement.
With respect to OTT platforms, though the new rules allows self-regulation it mandates the platforms to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. The publisher of online curated content shall 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, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.
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.
A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation.
The rules also requires the establishment of Self-Regulatory Body for the OTT platforms which shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
The detailed rules can be read here.