'New rules for social media, OTT, digital news portals'

Centre lays down rules for social media, OTT, digital news portals

Social media platforms on being asked by court or government will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous information

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference in New Delhi. Credit: PTI Photo

 Seeking to tighten its grip, the government on Thursday announced guidelines to regulate social media, online streaming platforms and digital news portals by asking them to set up grievance redressal mechanisms.

Contending that the government was adopting a “soft-touch regulatory approach”, Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said social media companies, OTT platforms and digital media will have to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for ordinary users and timely resolution.

Also read: OTT, social media guidelines released: Key takeaways

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, unveiled on Thursday, were necessary as the government had received several complaints raising concerns over the “rampant abuse of social media platforms”.

“Social media platforms, upon being asked either by court order or by a government authority will be required to disclose the first originator of a mischievous tweet or a message,” he said.

However, such information would be required to be furnished only in cases that have punishments of five years' imprisonment and above under the law, he said.

“This should be only in relation to sovereignty & integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, relations with foreign states, or rape, sexually explicit content etc,” Prasad said.

Digital media will have to follow norms of journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the programme code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

“We are only providing a level-playing field between offline and digital media,” the minister said adding that the government was not assuming any additional powers.

OTT platforms would be required self-classify 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.

The rules also mandate such platforms to put in place “reliable age-verification mechanisms for content classified as 'A'.

For OTT platforms and digital media, the first two tiers would be self-regulatory while the third tier would involve an oversight mechanism that would involve establishing an inter-departmental committee for hearing grievances.

The rules state a publisher will have to appoint a grievance redressal officer, based in India, who will be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer will take a decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.

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