Govt announces new rules to regulate news, digital content; says double standards unacceptable.

The government has announced new rules to curb 'misuse' of social media platforms, as it mandated firms to appoint grievance officer, disclose the first originator of mischievous information and remove, within 24 hours, content depicting nudity or morphed pictures of women.

The Centre on Thursday announced new guidelines to regulate digital content, including social media and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services, to curb the 'misuse' of these platforms.

The new rules have been announced by the Centre to “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.” The Code of Ethics will be applicable to online news and digital media entities, OTT platforms and digital media.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar shared details of new rules to regulate social media, while warning that “double standards of social media will not be acceptable.”

Here are the top 10 points:

1. Saying that concerns have been raised about rampant abuse of social media platforms, the spread of fake news, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the ministry prepared a draft in December 2018. “There will be two categories -- intermediary which can be social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary.”

The three-level grievance redressal mechanism established for self-regulation to enforce the Code of Ethics: >> Level-I: Self-regulation by publishers; >> Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers >> Level-III: Oversight mechanism.

Content involving nudity and morphed pictures of women will have to be removed in 24 hours. The minister said the central government will notify a number for a significant social media intermediary soon. “They will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism, a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days.”

2. Ravi Shankar Prasad said if there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women, the platform will be required to remove the objectionable content within 24 hours after registration of complaint. “This is designed to respect the dignity of women,” Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

3. On being asked by the court or government, social media platforms will be required to disclose the first originator of any "mischievous" information. “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. This should be in relation to the sovereignty of India, the security of the state, relations with foreign states, rape etc,” the minister added.

The grievance redressal official must be resident in India and monthly compliance reports have to be filed by social media platforms.

4. In urgent cases, the government will set up an oversight mechanism at its level to deal with a case where immediate action is required. The committee will reportedly have representatives from the ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home, I&B, Law, IT and Women and Child Development.


5. Publishers of news on digital media will 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.

6. Social media platforms must have a provision for the voluntary verification mechanism of the users, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

7. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will also publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.The rules have been notified under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act.

For OTT platforms:

8. The government said OTT platforms (like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) would have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories - U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Publishers will have to prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content

9. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said such 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'.

10. The will be a grievance redressal system in OTT platforms and digital portals. The OTT platforms will have a self-regulating body, headed by retired Supreme Court or High Court judge or very eminent person in this category, the government said. (Source: The Indian Express)

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