Union Minister for Law, Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday spoke on the government's stringent guidelines for social media, OTT platforms and digital media in Aaj Ki Baat with Rajat Sharma, Editor-In-Chief and Chairman, India TV. The Union Minister cleared confusion over the new guidelines and what companies will have to do to abide by the new guidelines.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Aaj Ki Baat | Top points
- Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that companies will have to launch a grievance redressal mechanism. Through this system, complaints will have to be registered and sorted out.
- Social media giants will have to appoint grievance officers to listen to the complaints.
- Emphasizing that need for the new guidelines, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that there are some people who promote terrorism... so shall the government keep quiet?
- Union Minister appealed to all social media platforms saying that India is a big market, they have expanded their business in the country, people have connected with them... it's a good thing, but they have to abide by the Indian laws.
- Responding to criticism on social media that the government wants to impose new guidelines to silence its critics, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that ...Prime Minister Narendra Modi is neither afraid of nor runs away from any criticism.
- The Union Minister also said that social media companies will have to voluntarily set up the verification mechanism of their users.
- Speaking on how social media giants differentiate between countries, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that a social media company supports the government's action against perpetrators of violence at the Capitol Hill in Washington, which is a good thing... but support those who try to create violence at Red Fort in New Delhi, it won't work like this.
- Addressing the issue of privacy of a user and whether new guidelines will affect it, Ravi Shankar Prasad mentioned about a 9-bench Supreme Court order in which it said that privacy is a part of fundamental right but added that the top court also said it's the responsibility of the government to act against those who indulge in terrorism and corruption.
- The government will not ask a social media company about the content of a user... the government would only want to know the 'first originator' of content and only in those scenarios if it threatens security, public order in the country.
Salient features of new rules for social media, OTT and digital media platforms
Social media norms
- Intermediaries will have to remove content containing nudity, sexual act or impersonation including morphed images, within 24 hours of receipt of complaints.
- Intermediaries will have to appoint a grievance officer to deal with complaints, and this official has to acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days of receiving the complaint.
- An intermediary, after receiving court or government order, should not host or publish any information that is prohibited in relation to the interest of the sovereignty of India and public order.
- Two categories of social media intermediaries have been classified on the basis of user number - social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.
- User threshold for determining significant social media intermediaries to be announced soon.
- Additional due diligence mandated for significant social media intermediaries.
- Significant social media intermediaries will have to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer.
- All three officials will have to reside in India.
- Significant social media intermediaries to publish a monthly compliance report on complaints received, action taken, and content removed proactively.
- Significant social media intermediary will need to have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.
- Messaging platforms asked to enable identification of the "first originator" of the information that undermines sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order. Intermediary will not be required to disclose content of message.
- Users who want to get their accounts verified voluntarily should be provided mechanism to do so.
- In case a social media platform removes content on its own, it will have to provide prior intimation for the same to the user and explain reasons for such action. Users to be given an opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.
- 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 that will come in effect 3 months after publication of the rules.
- In case due diligence is not followed by an intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.
OTT and Digital Media norms
- Code of Ethics prescribed for OTT platforms, online news and digital media entities.
- OTT platforms to self-classify content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
- Platforms need to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and deploy reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as A.
- The publisher of online curated content will have to prominently display the classification rating specific to each programme together along with a content descriptor. This will enable users to make informed decision before watching the programme.
- 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 TV Networks Regulation Act to ensure a level-playing field between offline and digital media.
- A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established with different levels of self-regulation under the rules. These are self-regulation by the publishers; self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers; and oversight mechanism.
- The publisher shall appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India, who will have to take decision on complaints within 15 days.
- There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body will have to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members.
- This body, which will have to register with the I&B Ministry, will oversee that the publisher adheres to the Code of Ethics and addresses those grievances not resolved within the stipulated timeframe.
- I&B Ministry will formulate an oversight mechanism and publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices.
- An inter-departmental committee will be established for hearing grievances.