In a press conference, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad issued intermediary guidelines and digital ethics codes on social media platforms and over-the-top (OTT) services.  The new guidelines will keep an eye on the web content/OTT content and empower social media users. As per the Central government’s data, there are 53 crores of WhatsApp, 41 crores of Facebook, 21 crores of Instagram, 1.75 crores of Twitter, and 44.8 crores of YouTube users.

 

“Posts relating to offenses related to the sovereignty of India, security, relations with other states, and rape must be removed. If you disable the content of a user you must give him reasons,” Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasized.

According to Prasad, social media platforms will be divided into two slabs based on the userbase. Those platforms which have a userbase of more than 50 lakh will come under significant social media intermediary platforms and the remaining under social media intermediary platforms.

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.

“Digital media portals have no right to spread rumour. Media’s freedom is absolute but with reasonable restrictions. Content matter, especially media, OTT and digital media will be administered by I&B ministry. Intermediary platforms monitoring will be done by the IT ministry in the manner they have been doing it,” Javadekar said.

Prasad said that social media is being used by criminals, terrorists to cause mayhem, chaos in India – while launching a ‘soft touch regulatory mechanism’. Posts regarding the dignity of women will be ordered to be removed within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that expose the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual activity, or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images, etc. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf, the new guidelines said.

 

  • Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media:This Code of Ethics prescribe the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.

 

  • Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, 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”. The publisher of online curated content shall 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, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every program enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to 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 Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.
  • three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation.
    • Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;
    • Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
    • Level-III: Oversight mechanism.
  • Self-regulation by the Publisher: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.
  • Self-Regulatory Body: There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
  • Oversight Mechanism: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances

 

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