Government unveils new rules to regulate digital news, social media, OTT platforms - 10 key points

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government has received several complaints about rampant abuse of social media platforms.

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In an apparent effort to curb the misuse of digital platforms, including digital news, social media and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services, the Centre on Thursday announced new guidelines to aimed at regulting content on digital platforms.

Addressing a press conference, Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar said that 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 Union Ministers said that “double standards of social media will not be acceptable.”

Here are key take aways from the press conference:

1. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government has received several complaints about rampant abuse of social media platforms and spread of fake news and that's why a draft was prepared by the government 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 has been established by the Centre 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.

2. As per the new guidelines the content involving nudity, morphed pictures of women will have to be removed in 24 hours. “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,” said Prasad.

3. Social media platforms on being asked by the court or government will now need to disclose the first originator of the mischief 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.

4. Prasad said that the grievance redressal official must be resident in India and social media platforms must file monthly compliance reports.

5. On urgent cases, an oversight mechanism will be set up by the government 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.

6. 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.

For OTT platforms:

7. OTT platforms 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 need to prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme.

8. Union 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.

9. The will be a grievance redressal system in OTT platforms and digital portals. The government said that the OTT platforms will have a self-regulating body, which will be headed by retired Supreme Court or High Court judge or very eminent person in this category.

10. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that social media platforms must have a provision for the voluntary verification mechanism of the users.

The new rules laid down by the Centre have been notified under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act.

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