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Govt unveils new guidelines to regulate content on social media, OTT platforms

On Thursday, the government unveiled new policies for social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

"Social media is welcome for doing business in India, but such is coming on, which cannot be called civilized in any way. Such complaints came to us a lot. There should be a forum for the problem of social media users. Social media is used to spread hatred.  Terrorists are also using social media. Complaints of wrong use of social media have been coming for many years, there is also the menace of fake news.

Under the new guidelines, offensive posts will be removed within 24 hours and platforms have to appoint a Chief Complaint Officer. Platforms will also need to provide information on who first posted the content.

The new guidelines will be implemented within three months.

``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.

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He added: "This should only be related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, state security, public order, relations with foreign states, or rape, sexually explicit content, etc,'' he added.
The Rules are aimed at establishing a soft-touch progressive institutional mechanism with a level playing field that features a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news publishers and OTT platforms on digital media.

"There was a demand from all sectors, including these two platforms, that there should be some arrangement where a level playing field could be provided to all the media categories. Therefore, under Information Technology Act, certain rules are being formulated to provide these institutions mechanism for the level playing field," a statement from the government said.

Main features of the Rules

The Rules establish a soft touch progressive institutional mechanism with a level playing field featuring a code of ethics and three-tier grievance redressal framework from news publishers and OTT platforms on digital media.

OTT platforms would self-classify content into five age groups: U (Universal), U / A 7+, U / A 13+, U / A 16+, and A (adult). Platforms may be required to implement parental locks for content rated U / A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe the Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code Cable Television Networks Regulation) Act, providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media. 

Grievance redressal mechanism

A three-level claims redress mechanism has been established under the rules with two levels of self-regulation: Level I being the publisher, Level II being the Self Regulatory Body, and the third level is the third level being the Oversight Mechanism under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. The rules provide an effective grievance redressal mechanism for receiving, processing, and time-bound disposal of public grievances related to the Code of Ethics. The Self-Regulatory Body would be headed by a retired Supreme Court or of High Court, or a prominent person from the relevant field, and can issue advisories to the publisher. 

The mechanism is based on the principles of minimal government intervention; However, platforms must develop a robust grievance redressal mechanism on their own.

Benefits of the Rules

An institutional mechanism would : (1) encourage growth in the champion Audio-Visual Services Sector; (2) Empower citizens to make informed decisions about content, address their complaints within specified time frames, and protect children; And (3) help to fight fake news on digital media through a mechanism of accountability of the publishers.

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