Government Issues New Guidelines On OTT, Social Media And Digital News Platforms Regulation

by Shatakshi Gupta

The central government on Thursday released guidelines for Social media, OTT platforms and Digital news.  The government said that there is freedom to raise criticism and questions, but there should also be a forum to deal with the complaints of crores of users of social media. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that if there is a complaint on social media about content that hurts someone’s dignity (especially matters related to women), then it has to be removed within 24 hours. At the same time, on sharing information related to matters like security of the country, first origin will also have to be told.

 On the other hand, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said about OTT and digital news portals that they should make a system to control themselves. Just as there is a censor board for movies, the same arrangement should be there for platforms. The content shown on it should be according to age.

Social media becomes a platform to promote violence

Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We received a complaint that social media has become a platform to promote criminal, terrorists and perpetrators of violence. WhatsApp users in India are over 50 crores. Facebook has 41 crore users, Instagram users are 21 crore and Twitter has 15 crore users. There have been complaints of misuse of these social media platforms and spreading fake news through them. This was a matter of concern, so the government decided to prepare a guideline for such platforms.”

Guidelines for social media

Social media platforms have to take care of the online safety and dignity of their users, especially women.  Content that infringe someone’s privacy, showing their entire body, or showing sexual activity, or content that has been faked( like deep fake photographs) will have to be removed within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.  One can complain about it personally or else on someone’s behalf.

If a court or government institution asks for information about the first originator of an objectionable, mischievous tweet or message, the social media platform will have to share this information with the government.

This system will be applicable in matters related to the integrity, unity and security of India, social system, relations with other countries, rape and sexual exploitation.

These platforms have to create mechanisms for Redressal of grievances. An officer will have to be appointed and his name will also have to be mentioned. This officer will have to file a complaint within 24 hours and it will have to be resolved within 15 days. Regarding the user’s dignity, especially for women, if an objectionable picture is posted, the content will have to be removed within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.

 According to the court or government agency, if any information is illegal or banned under the law related to India’s unity, integrity, social system, relations with other countries, then it has to be removed.

These companies have to submit a report every month on how many complaints were received and what action was taken on them. However, If the content of a social media user is to be removed, then the platform has to explain the reason for doing so and also listen to user’s side.

Also read: OTT Platforms Spent 3800 Crore On Content For Indian Audience: Report Says

Guidelines for OTT platforms and Digital News

There will be 3 phase mechanism for OTT platforms and digital news platforms. All these have to submit their information. There is no obligation to register, but information must be given.

A system should be put in place to resolve the complaints.They have form aself-regulating body. It will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court or someone equally qualified.

 If action needs to be taken immediately in a matter, a system will be created at the government level for this, which can handle such matters.

Like movies, OTT platforms also have to follow the program code. Classification has to be done about the content in terms of age i.e. which content is right for which age group.

 OTT platforms have to categorize their content into 5 categories. U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+ and A i.e. Adult.

On U/A 13+ and above categories of content, platform will have to provide a parental lock so that they can keep children away from such content.

Guidelines effective as soon as notifications are released

Ravi Shankar Prasad said that all guidelines issued today will be implemented as soon as the notifications are issued.

3 months time

A period of 3 months is given for big social media platforms to change their mechanisms in order to comply with the new regulations.

Authority to comply

 In order to comply with the rules and laws the social media intermediaries have to appoint a Chief Compliance Nodal Officer in India, Nodal Contact Person who remains in contact with government agencies 24 hours and a Resident Grievance Officer for redressal of complaints. All these officers will remain in India.