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New Social Media Code – A much-needed one for India

Synopsis: The new Social media code is much-needed to ensure the online platforms are subject to law of the land

Introduction:

Recently, the government introduced the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The rules have the potential to transform the online media platforms to fit into the Indian ecosystem.

Few salient provisions in the New Social Media Code:

  1. The OTT platforms together have to enact a code for self-regulation. Further, the OTT platforms also have to classify the content. Therefore, an underage minor not able to view the adult contents.
  2.  The new social media code creates a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
    • First-tier: The publishers of social media have to appoint officers to redress their grievances. These officers have to ensure the time-bound disposal of grievances.
    • A self-regulating body headed by a retired judge will be at the Second-tier.
    • The central government oversight committee will be in the third tier.
  3.  All the grievances have to be resolved within the framework of India’s laws. Recently, Twitter disobeyed government rules. After the implementation of New social media codes, social media have to obey the government directions.

What India need New Social Media Code?

  1. The policy will create a level playing field in two important things.
    • Between the online news platforms and print media
    • Between the online news platforms and television news media.
  2. The new social media rules will bring in the online news portals within the ambit of the code of ethics. It is a much-needed step considering the recklessness and irresponsibility shown by some of the digital media platforms.
  3. Further, the new social media rules aim to achieve oversight responsibilities. Like the film certification agency for Cinema, the social media platforms have to ensure a content classification.
  4. The new social media codes will ensure freedom of speech to the artists. This is achieved through self-regulation. Social media platforms can provide more freedom for artists to create content. Since they are the ones going to regulate it, they can classify the content of artist instead of banning them like other media (film, print etc).

What are the global lessons for digital media platforms in self-regulation?

  1. Lessons from Australia: In Australia, Digital companies have drafted a code to deal with fake news and disinformation. This is called the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation. The code has few important provisions including the removal of content and disabling the content from the digital platforms.
  2. Lessons from the UK: The UK government is proposed an “Online Safety Bill”.  The Bill aims to deal heavily on digital platforms that promote violence, child abuse, terrorist material, cyber bullying, etc.

Conclusion:

The New social media code has the necessary provisions to ensure free speech.  At the same time, It will regulate social media companies from violating the law of the land.

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