The government of India has finally pulled up the socks to regulate news websites, social media, and OTT platforms. For the first time, The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 sets the parameters for the regulation of digital news organizations, social media platforms, and OTT streaming services.
The set of rules and guidelines will keep a check on the content available online which threatens national security and or affect the sovereignty and integrity of India.
With over 53 crore users of WhatsApp, 44.8 crore users of YouTube, 41 crore users of Facebook, 21 crore users of Instagram, and 1.75 crore users of Twitter, India is one of the biggest markets for Social Media Companies.
Some of the major clauses of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 are as follows:
- The new law will require the social media companies to remove or disable access to any unlawful information as soon as possible but within the time limit of 36 hours. Any court or appropriate government agency can notify the intermediary for doing the same.
- Authorized government agencies can seek assistance or ask for information for investigative, protective, and or cybersecurity activities. The intermediary will have to provide the information required for verification of identity, prevention, detection, or prosecution within 72 hours of the notification.
- The companies will require appointing a grievance officer for India who will be responsible for complaints. The intermediaries will share the name and contact details of the officer. He/She will receive and acknowledge the complaints within 24 hours. Shall be responsible to resolve the complaint within 15 days of receiving the complaint.
- Social Media companies will have to appoint Chief Compliance Officer and Nodal Contact Person apart from the grievance officer. The responsible officers must be residents of India. Their responsibilities will include maintaining and publishing a report with details of complaints received and action taken. Additionally, it will include information on the contents removed proactively. This report will be published monthly.
- OTT platforms will have to self classify the content on the basis of age, sex, violence, and nudity and ensure children do not have access to the restricted content.
- News websites will be regulated under the Press Council of India. And they would require registering on the Information and Broadcasting Ministry site.
Many experts believe the regulations were much needed in times of increased internet usage. Fake news, nudity, sexual abuse, and other offensive content pose a threat to any civilized society. At the same time, many are watchful if the regulations do not hamper user’s right to free speech and privacy.