Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar on 25 February released the guidelines of new rules to regulate digital content on social media to curb the misuse of the platforms. “Social media is welcome to do business in India,” Prasad said as he began laying out the guidelines.
The government welcomes criticism of the government and the right to dissent, but it is very important that the users must be given a forum to raise their grievance against the abuse and misuse of social media, Prasad said.
“Concerns have been raised over the years about rampant abuse of social media… the ministry had widespread consultations and we prepared a draft in December 2018. There will be two categories — intermediary which can be social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary,” Prasad said during the briefing.
As per the new guidelines, social media platforms are required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message if they are asked by the government, the information and technology minister announced. They are required to submit a compliance report every month.
“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 said.
The social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter are ordered to have to have a grievance redressal mechanism under which they are required to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days.
Social media platforms are required to have provision for voluntary verification of users.
The laws made for social media will come into effect in the next three months, Prasad said. “The government has given three months of window to the social media companies to improve their mechanism,” he said.
For OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar, the union minister announced that they will have to have a self-regulating body that “will be headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge or very eminent person in this category.” An oversight mechanism will be set up at the government level to deal with cases that require immediate action.
The new guidelines mandate self-classification of content on all OTT platforms, Javadekar said. The categories will be 13+, 16+ and A (Adult) categories. “There has to be a mechanism of parental lock and ensuring compliance that children don’t see that,” he said during the briefing.
Until now, the online news publishers, social media platforms and OTT streaming services were not regulated under the Information and Broadcasting ministry. It was brought under the its ambit last year after the government received several complaints regarding fake news and explicit shows.