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Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code 2021
The new IT Rules 2021 comes at a time when the number of internet users especially the Social media users have grown significantly. The Social media platforms user base has grown tremendously in India. According to PIB(Press information Bureau ) news the number of users of various social media platforms in India are as follows
- WhatsApp 53 crores
- YouTube 44.8 crores
- Facebook 41 crores
- Instagram 21 crores
- Twitter 1.75 crores
The use of mobile phones and internet has grown extensively in India and so does the expansion of social media platforms. India is now World’s largest open internet society.
What’s the need of New IT Rules 2021?
Proliferation of social media has empowered the common citizen of India to participate actively in online activities, and it has also given rise to various challenges such as
- spread of fake news
- sharing of morphed images hurting women dignity,
- revenge porns,
- Defaming and Disrespectful religious contents
- Use of social media by terrorist groups for recruitment.
- Financial frauds
- Incitement of violence.
- Settling of corporate rivalries
- Spread of disharmony.
These concerns have grown manifold in recent years. There was no mechanism currently available to ordinary users of these platforms where they can raise their complaint and get redressal in a defined timeframe.
Institutional demand for new IT rules 2021 .
Over the years the growing concern about unregulated content has been raised at various institutional levels also.
- The Supreme Court of India has ordered in 2018 in Prajjawala case to government of India to frame necessary guidelines to spread the menace of child pornography, rape and gangrape images etc.
- Rajya sabha Ad hoc committee in 2020 has also laid a report citing the need to regulate social media to spread the pornography and enabling identification of originator of such contents.
What are the New IT rules 2021 and guidelines?
There are two sets of rules released,
- Part-ii governing social media which will be administered by the Ministry of electronics and IT
- Part-iii related to ethical code will be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Part-ii Guidelines for Social Media
First of all, the Government of India has classified social media into two categories based on the number of users of Social Media platforms.
- Social media intermediaries
- Significant Social media intermediaries – User Base Greater than 50 Lakhs in India
The rules for social media apply to both kinds of Social Media intermediaries, additionally few separate rules are to be followed by Significant Social Media intermediaries.
Guidelines for social media are:
1. Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries.——Rules ask the social media intermediaries to follow due diligence, that is they should follow proper precautionary steps so that their platforms are not used to commit any kind of offence. If the social media intermediaries don’t follow due diligence they will not be given advantage of safe harbour provision of information technology act.
2. Grievance redressal mechanism——This rule mandates that all intermediaries including the social media intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer and share his name and contact details on their platforms. The rule further clarifies that the Grievance Officer should acknowledge a complaint within 24 hours and should resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.
3. Dignity of users and their online safety, especially Women users.——If any individual or any other person on his/her behalf complaints about content exposing the private parts of an individual, fully or partially or in sexual act, morphed images, that content should be taken down or its access should be disabled within 24 hours of such complaint.
Additional rules which need to be followed by Significant Social Media intermediaries:-
1. Appoint a Chief Compliance officer——Who will ensure compliance with rules and guidelines, such a person should be a resident in India.
2. Appoint Nodal Contact Person——For 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, such a person also shall be a resident in India.
3. Appoint Resident Grievance Officer.——Will enforce grievance redressal mechanism is properly followed, such person shall be resident in India.
4. Publish Monthly Compliance Report——Report containing details of complaints, action taken as well details of contents removed proactively.
5. Identification of first originator of the information——Social media intermediaries having messaging services shall enable a mechanism to identify the first originator of an information, for the purpose of prevention, investigation, detention, punishment and prosecution of an offence against security and integrity of India.
6. Physical contact address in India——Significant Social Media intermediaries shall have a physical contact office in India.
7. Voluntary user verification mechanism——Users who wish to voluntarily verify their social accounts should be provided a mechanism to verify their account. A visible mark of verification should also be provided on verification.
8. Opportunity to be Heard to the users——Whenever social media intermediaries disable access to any information on their own, a prior information of the same should be given to the uploader along with reasons for such actions. Further the users must be provided the opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediaries.
9. Removal of Unlawful Information——When law agencies or authorised officers orders the social media intermediaries to not host or publish any information which is against law or hampers sovereignty and integrity of India, it should be taken down.
Digital Media Ethics Code applicable to OTT platforms and Digital Media platforms.
These provisions are contained in Part-3 of guidelines and are administered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT.
- Publishers of News on Digital Media would have to follow the Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India, also the Programme Code under the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act. 1994
- Self classification of content. The OTT platforms are required to self classify the content into Five age based categories.
- U- universal
- U/A – 7+
- U/A- 13+
- U/A- 16+
- A- Adult
- Implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ and higher.
- Reliable age verification process for content classified as Adult.
- Display content descriptor advisory
- Not to show prohibited content.
- Three tier Grievance redressal mechanism
- Level- I : self regulation by publisher—– A Grievance Redressal Officer shall be appointed by the publisher of content, which shall be based in India. Decisions on every complaint should be taken within 15 days.
- Level- II: Self Regulating Body—–There should be one or more Self regulatory bodies of publishers which will oversee adherence to the code of conduct rules and implementation of grievance redressal mechanisms.
- Level-III : Oversight Mechanism—–The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will publish a charter for Self regulatory bodies of Publisher which will also include Code of practices. Overall mechanism will be under oversight of the Ministry of IB.
Benefits of New IT Rules according to the government
These benefits are mentioned in the officially released document of government of India. Benefits of Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code 2021 are classified into 3 as follows:
For Media & Entertainment Sector i.e OTT Platforms
- Sustainable Growth—-Promote Champion Audio-Visual Services Sector
- Avoid Litigation—-Informed Decisions by Content Creators
- Artistic Freedom—-No pre-censorship
- Self-Classification—-No delays
For Citizens & Society.
- Quality Content—-Better Journalistic and Entertainment Content
- Protecting Children—-Access Control and Age Verification
- Citizen Empowerment—-Informed Choice, Effective Grievance Redressal
- Curbing Misinformation—-Accountability of Digital News Publishers
For Digital News Publishers
- Sustainable Growth—-Quality journalism through transparency
- Freedom of Press—-Arm’s length from Government
- Level Playing Field—-Similar principles for online and offline news
- Curbing Misinformation—-Reducing fake news on digital media
Frequently Asked Question
What is Social Media?
According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
Social media is synonymous with Social Networking sites such as Facebook or Microblogging sites such as Twitter. However Social Media can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or entity to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content.
What is the OTT?
OTT means “over the top“, it refers to the streaming services that deliver the content over the internet for example Netflix, Spotify Amazon prime videos etc.Over the top signifies that a consumer can stream content across different devices whenever he wants over the internet without the need of traditional cable or satellite TV services.
What is Digital Media ?
It is an ever evolving term in today’s internet world, digital media can be in the form of articles, advertisement, digital art, news articles, videos etc.The word Media comes from Latin word medius which means ” middle layer”, so it can be expressed as some type of entertainment or information from one body to another.
And Digital media is transmitted as digital data which at its simplest form can be defined as data which is transmitted in form of binary signals that are 0s & 1s to devices that translate them into some kind of useful information such as audio, video, text etc.
What are Social Media intermediaries?
Social media intermediaries are the organisation that provides the platform for communication over the internet such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Signal, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter etc. Are they liable for content posted on their platforms? Read about Safe harbour and Due diligence rules to know.
What are significant social media intermediaries?
The government of India has classified social media intermediaries on the basis of their user base, the platforms having more than 50 lakh registered users in India will be considered as Significant Social Media intermediaries.
Government also reserves the right to update the term whenever needed.
What is Due diligence in new IT rules?
Due diligence literally means steps taken by a person or organisation to avoid committing an offence. Due Diligence is mentioned in section 79 of Information Technology Act 2000 which implies organisations should take proactive measures to stop committing an offence through their platforms.
What is Safe harbour in new IT rules 2021?
Safe harbour has also been defined in the section 79 of Information Technology Act 2000, it implies that intermediaries will be exempted from liability for third party content on their services, as long as they fulfill certain conditions or provisions such as due diligence.
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Recent in News
New Area of Infringement of Fundamental Rights
- Social media intermediaries depends upon AI based algorithms that keeps a track of the probable violations of their policies, and these AI based algorithms removes if they find any content violating their policies. But As per the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case, wherein Section 66A of the IT Act was struck down, the direction to remove any social media content could come only through a court order, or from a competent authority of the central government under Section 69A of the IT Act.
- Therefor Algorithms that infringe on Articles 14, 19, and 21 of any citizen of India are still an infringement. And Government’s main role is to protect the right of its citizens to free speech, privacy, and the right to non-discrimination whether its online or offline.
- There is a need to look into the algorithms of social media intermediaries if are against the law or are in breach of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.