New rules for OTT and digital media platforms announced by government

By: Meenu Rana, The Mobile Indian, New Delhi Last updated : February 25, 2021 5:20 pm

Social media companies operating in India to appoint a resident grievance officer, who must register a grievance in 24 hours and redress it in 15 days.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has announced new guidelines for digital news organizations, social media platforms and OTT platforms to stop the misuse of content. The draft regulation, Information Technology Rules (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Code of Ethics for Digital Media), 2021, aims to have tighter control.

During a press conference, chaired by Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad, the latter listed the features of the guidelines, which has been divided into two categories: Social media intermediary and Significant social media intermediary.

According to the guidelines, social media companies operating in India to appoint a resident grievance officer, who must register a grievance in 24 hours and redress it in 15 days.

"Intermediaries shall appoint a grievance officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer. The grievance officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt."

“We have not framed any new law. We have framed these rules under the existing IT ACT,” said MeITY minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announcing these rules. “We are trusting the platforms to follow these regulations,” he said. “The focus of this guideline is on self-regulation.”

The Rules will come in effect from the date of their publication in the gazette, except for the additional due diligence for significant social media intermediaries, which shall come in effect three months after publication of these Rules.

"Social media platforms upon being asked either by a court order or a govt authority will be required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message as the case may be," Prasad said. The social media platforms must have a provision for a voluntary verification mechanism of the users.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said "double standards of social media" will not be accepted. "All social media platforms are welcome in India but there shouldn't be double standards. If attack takes place on Capitol Hill, then social media supports police action, but if there's an aggressive attack on Red Fort, then you've double standards. This is plainly not acceptable," the minister added.

"We shall notify users number for a significant social media intermediary very soon. They will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism, you will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days," Prasad further added.  

“If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly woman that exploits their private parts of individuals or nudity or in sexual acts, impersonation, etc, you will be required to remove that within 24 hours,” Prasad said.

The social media intermediaries guidelines include appointing a chief compliance officer resident in India who will be responsible for ensuring the compliance of the acts and the rules and a nodal contact person for having 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. The person should be a resident of India, as per the rules.

For OTT and Digital content platforms, news media have to disclose details about where and how they publish content. The minister added that there should be a grievance redressal system for OTT and digital content platforms. He added that they will have to have a self-regulating body, headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge, or a very eminent person in this category.

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