Govt unveils new guidelines for social media and OTT platforms
The government on Thursday unveiled the guidelines to regulate social media platforms and streaming or over the top (OTT) platforms. This decision will have a bearing on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, to name a few.
Under the new guidelines, both social media and OTT platforms will have to adhere to further disclosures and have a faster redressal mechanism. According to the government, this decision was taken after they received scores of complaints from users on the content available on these platforms, as well as propelled by a direction from the Supreme Court.
Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Law and Justice and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad
Union IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “It is a soft touch over the platforms where we are insisting upon them to have a proper redressal mechanism for any grievance.”
However, at the same time, the minister emphasised that social media is welcome to do business in India and the government welcomes criticism as well as dissenting views.
“India is the world’s largest open internet society, and the government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business, and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” the IT minister said.
According to the government, WhatsApphas a user base of 53 crore in India, YouTube – 44.8 crore, Facebook– 41 crore, Instagram – 21 crore, and Twitter – 1.75 crore.
As with OTT platforms, the government has also come out with similar steps for social media where it has sought further disclosures, redressal mechanism, and self-regulation.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said these OTT platforms will have to follow certain self-regulation mechanism and need to ensure adequate safeguards so that no objectionable content is displayed on these sites.
As Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad noted, “Lack of transparency and absence of robust grievance redressal mechanism have left the users totally dependent on the whims and fancies of social media platforms. “
Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries
- Grievance redressal mechanism: Appointment of a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.
- Ensuring online safety and dignity of users, especially women users.
There will two categories of social media intermediaries based on the number of users: 'social media intermediary' and 'significant social intermediaries'.
Rules for significant social media intermediary
- The appointment of Chief Compliance Officer, who should be a resident of India, shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
- Appointment of the nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- Appointment of resident grievance officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism.
- To publish monthly compliance reports.
- Disclosing the identity of the first originator of the information who publishes objectionable content.
- They should have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.
- Voluntary user verification mechanism.
- Giving users an opportunity to be heard.
- Removal of unlawful information as per directions of the Court or authorised government agencies.
New guidelines for OTT platforms and digital media
- Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms, and digital media.
- Self-classification of content.
- Self-regulation by the publisher.
- Creation of self-regulatory body to headed by a retired judge of Supreme Court or High Court.
- The Information and Broadcasting Ministry to formulate an oversight mechanism.