Govt reveals new guidelines to regulate content on social media and OTT platforms

The government revealed the new policies for social media and over the top (OTT) platforms today. In a press conference, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar stated that the new guidelines will monitor the content on the web /OTT platforms.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said that since some are using social media to spread hatred, fake news and even terrorists are using social media, the social media users are given a forum to address their problems. As per the new guidelines, offensive posts need to be removed in 24 hours and the platforms have to appoint a Chief Complaint Officer. The platforms should provide information about the person who first posted the content. The new guidelines will be implemented within three months.

The IT Minister added that social media platforms need to disclose the first originator of the problem causing tweet or message when a court order or a govt authority asks for it. “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,” he added.

Major points:

1) Social media intermediaries have to appoint a grievance officer, who shall register complaints in 24 hours

2) Social media platforms must have provision for voluntary verification of users.

3) Social media platforms will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message upon being asked by the court or government.

4) Grievance redressal official must be Indian residents; monthly compliance reports have to be filed by social media platforms.

5) Content involving nudity, morphed pictures of women have to be removed in 24 hours.

Prakash Javadekar added that they have decided on a three-step mechanism for OTT platforms. While there is no mandatory registration, OTT and digital news media will have to disclose their details. 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, he added.

The government announced, “The OTT platforms have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms should 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 have 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.

The government added that the rules are aimed at establishing 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.