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The Government of India has released the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It aims to regulate social media, digital news media and over-the-top (OTT) content providers.
Key Provisions of the Rules:
Social media companies and redressal: The government wants social media companies to have a mechanism to address complaints from users. It wants social media intermediaries to appoint the following officers:
- Chief Compliance Officer, who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
- Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- Resident Grievance Officer: He will receive and resolve complaints from users. The officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
All these officers have to be residents of India.
Categories of Content that should not be posted: The rules lay down categories of content that the social media platform should not host. It includes content that
- Threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order
- Causes incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or
- Prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any foreign States
- Content is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy,
- Related to encouraging money laundering or gambling or is inconsistent with or contrary to the laws of India.
Removal of these contents: The rules stipulate that the platforms should remove the content within 36 hours. Duration will count from the receipt of information from a court or the appropriate government agency about the platform hosting prohibited content.
Monthly Compliance Report:
- The platforms will need to publish a monthly compliance report. It should have the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints.
Track Originator of Message:
- The social media platforms need to disclose the first originator of the objectionable tweet or message if asked either by a court or a government authority.
- This will be required in matters related to the security and sovereignty of India, public order, or with regard to rape or any other sexually explicit material.
Self-Classification of Content:
- The Over the Top(OTT) platforms would classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
- Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher. A reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A” should be placed.
Publishing News on Digital Media:
- Publishers of news on digital media will 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.
Penalties for Non-Compliance of Rules:
- In case an intermediary fails to observe the rules, it will be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code.
- The penal provisions vary from imprisonment for three years to a maximum of seven years, with fines starting from Rs 2 lakh.
Source: Indian Express