The government of India on Thursday introduced a bunch of new rules in an attempt to regulate social media content and achieve what they call “soft touch progressive institutional mechanism with the level-playing field”. The new rules plan to set up a basic Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news sites and OTT platforms.
Throughout the rules, the OTT platforms and news sites have been asked to self-regulate themselves while allowing the citizens mechanism for addressing grievances if any. However, the government has taken a high stance on social media platforms.
The new rules are part of The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and include a strict oversight by several ministries against actions by platforms that in anyways hurt the sovereignty and integrity of India.
As per the new rules, the social media giants will now be required to appoint an India-based compliance officer. If in case social media takes down some content, the officers will have to inform users and give reasons for taking down their post and hear them out.
The oversight committee will have officials from ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home, I&B, Law, IT and Women and Child Development. All these officials will have suo-motu powers to summon the aforementioned tech officials in case of ethics breach.
All social sites will now be required to reveal the first point of origination of any mischief social media post. “Who began the mischief? You have to say,” says Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The goverenemnt will also designate an “Authorised Officer” who can ‘direct’ blocking of the content. If the appellate body believes that the officer is right, then it is empowered to send the content to a government-controlled committee for blocking orders to be issued.
Digital news media will now have to follow rules under the Press Council of India, which mostly are self-regulatory. These new websites, which are mostly seen to entertain unresearched and un-widely thought opinions, will have to be registered on the Information and Broadcasting Ministry site.
Under new rules, social media platforms will have to take down content that is defamatory, obscene, libellous, racist, harmful to minors, threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India and its ties with other countries within 36 hours of being notified court notice.
An intermediary (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has to, within 24 hours of a complaint, remove any kind of illegal or offensive content.