New social media guidelines introduced by the Indian authorities

In order to hold the various social media platforms accountable for their actions, the government published guidelines for intermediary platforms on Thursday. These guidelines were issued under the Information Technology Rules 2021 (Intermediate Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) to control abuse of social media, where many citizens are active users.

Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a press conference: “Social media is welcome to do business in India, it has done extraordinarily good business, it has done good business, it has empowered ordinary Indians. The government welcomes criticism and the right to object. It is important that social media users who come across Crores have a platform to file their complaints on to file complaints about abuse of social media. "

What are the new rules for social media and OTT platforms?

While social media laws will come into effect in three months as they help improve their mechanism, others will come into play the day the rules are posted.
To simplify the guidelines, we have compiled six points that contain the new rules:

1. Platforms like WhatsApp need to help the government find the "originator" of messages that are harmful and contain illegal information.

2. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter must remove content containing illegal information within 36 hours of being notified. Others will need to confirm within the allotted time frame, but can resolve the issue within 15 days.

You must also provide identity verification information, and this must be done within 72 hours with legally authorized agencies.

3. OTT platforms must divide their content into five categories depending on age. These five categories are:
– U (universal)
7+ (over 7 years)
13+ (over 13 years)
16+ (over 16 years)
A (adult)

Parental controls and age verification locks are implemented in accordance with these categories.

4. All content generated by the various OTTs must take into account the sovereignty of the country and its relationship with other countries. OTT content has to go through a three-step mechanism to resolve complaints. These are:
Self-regulation through the platform
Self-regulatory authority
Government-generated oversight mechanism.

A government-appointed official who is part of the oversight committee can also block access to content he deems inappropriate.

5. The news broadcast on OTT must respect the guidelines of the Press Council of India as well as the law regulating cable TV networks and create content accordingly.

6. All major social media platforms must assign three positions: i) Chief Compliance Officer, ii) Nodal Contact Person and iii) Resident Grievance Officer.

These officers are required to prepare a compliance report each month, which includes full details of the complaints submitted and the actions taken. These positions must be awarded within three months of the publication of the rules.

In addition, the node contact person must be in contact with law enforcement agencies around the clock.

Reasons for introducing these guidelines

To ensure that due diligence is carried out by social media platforms

If a social media platform refuses to carry out its due diligence, it will no longer be subject to safe harbor provisions. This means they will now be held liable for the content that users post on their platforms if they fail to do their due diligence.

These provisions, defined in Section 79 of the IT Act, give them a “safe haven” by not holding them accountable and by granting them immunity from prosecution for content posted on their respective platforms.

Ensure the safety of citizens, especially women

The various platforms must disable access to content that contains explicit images or videos within 24 hours of filing complaints. These complaints can be submitted by the person or someone else on their behalf.

Establish a mechanism to resolve complaints

In order to empower users who are active on the different platforms, a complaint resolution mechanism will be put in place, aimed at resolving consumer complaints promptly. The complainant is responsible for ensuring that the complaint is confirmed within 24 hours and dealt with within 15 days of receipt.

Although the government has been working on these rules since 2018, Trump's recent dethronement and friction between the IT department and Twitter over the published content – related to the farmers' protests – have accelerated the process.

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