NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday said that social media is welcome to do business in India but there should be no double standards and that it will have to comply with the rules and regulations issued from time to time so that its misuse can be prevented. The government also announced new guidelines to curb the misuse of social media platforms.
Addressing a press conference in the national capital, Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The social media is most welcome to do business in the country. They have done a good job in empowering the ordinary Indians and their platform has often been used to cast aspersion on most pressing issues. I would like to say that the social media platform should not be misused. The social media platform will have to comply with the rules and regulations issued by the government in this regard.”
“There shouldn’t be double standards. If an attack takes place on Capitol Hill in the US, then social media supports police action but if there’s an aggressive attack on the Red Fort, then you’ve double standards. This is plainly not acceptable,” Prasad said.
Prasad added that “concerns have been raised about rampant abuse of social media platforms and the spread of fake news.” Sharing more details on the new rules and guidelines on social media, Prasad said, “Content involving nudity, morphed pictures of women have to be removed within 24 hours. Social media intermediaries have to appoint grievance officer, who shall register complaints in 24 hours.”
“Social media platforms upon being asked either by a court order or a government authority will be required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message as the case may be,” Prasad said. “This should be only in relation to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, relations with foreign states, or rape, sexually explicit content etc,” Prasad 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 said during the press conference.
“The I&B Ministry had widespread consultations and we prepared a draft in December 2018 – there’ll be 2 categories, Intermediary which can be social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary,” the Union Minister said. Prasad stated that the content on OTT platforms will be strictly monitored by the government.
“The laws made for significant social media will be implemented within 3 months so that they can improve their mechanism. The rest will come into effect from the day the rules are notified,” Prasad said.
The new rules establish a soft touch progressive institutional mechanism with a level playing field featuring a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news publishers and OTT platforms on the digital media, he said.
Addressing the joint press conference along with Prasad, Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said, ”The OTT platforms would self-classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as 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 Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation) Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media,” Javadekar said on his turn.
“There should be a grievance redressal system in OTT platforms and digital portals. OTT platforms will have to have a self-regulating body, headed by retired Supreme Court or High Court judge or very eminent person in this category,” Javadekar said while replying to questions on the mechanism for monitoring the content on the OTT platforms.
The I&B Minister said, “We have decided to have a 3-stair mechanism for OTT platforms. OTT and digital news media will have to disclose their details. We are not mandating registration, we are seeking information.”
There will also be an oversight mechanism at the government level to deal with the case wherein immediate action is needed, Javadekar said.
According to the new rules and guidelines issued by the government, a three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with two levels of self-regulation- Level I being the publisher and Level II being the Self Regulatory Body, and the third level being the Oversight Mechanism under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
The rules provide for 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 judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, or by a person of eminence from the relevant field, and can issue advisories to the publisher.
The mechanism is based on the principles of minimum ”Government intervention’; however, platforms should develop a robust grievance redressal mechanism on their own, the Union Minister said.
What are the benefits of the rules
The institutional mechanism would : (i) encourage growth in the Champion Audio-Visual Services Sector; (ii) empower citizens to make informed choices about content, get their grievances redressed in a definite time frame, and protect children; and (iii) help to fight fake news on digital media through a mechanism of accountability of the publishers.