Govt Announces New Rules For Digital Media, OTT And Social Media Platforms

The new Information Technology Rules, 2021 is being implemented to bring digital media outlets and OTT platforms onto a level playing field, Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javdekar said today.

The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 is being implemented to bring digital media outlets and OTT platforms onto a level playing field, Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javdekar said today.

Addressing a joint press conference with Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javdekar said, "Whereas TV journalists have to follow the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act and print journalists have to follow Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India, digital media and OTT platforms do not have such rules."

"Like TV regulatory bodies have hearings, give out judgement and institute fines, in the same way, OTT platforms will also have to come up with regulations. We are only removing the double standards. What is being followed in the print media, has to be followed here. print media has to follow PCI's code and anyone can complain to the PCI. It will be the same for digital media," Javdekar added.

Stating that the government is supportive of press freedoms, Prasad said that that freedom does not mean news organisations can spread rumours and falsehoods.

"We are supportive of press freedom but every freedom should be responsible freedom. Digital media portals don't have the right to spread rumours and falsehoods. Media's freedom in absolute but with responsible, reasonable self-restrictions," Prasad said.

Self-regulating Body For OTT Platforms, Digital Media

Javdekar announced that OTT platforms, news publishers and digital media will be mandated to form a self-regulatory body headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge or very eminent person in this category while an oversight mechanism will be set up at the government level to deal with emergency cases.

News publishers will have to follow a three-level grievance redressal mechanism. The first level will be self-regulation by the publishers followed by self-regulation by self-regulating body of publishers followed by an oversight mechanism formulated by the government.

Stating that OTT platforms were given the opportunity to form a self-regulatory body before, Javdekar said, "We asked OTT platforms to form a self regulatory body but nothing panned out. In a second meeting, we asked them to do it in a 100 days but even that wasn't done. Which is why we decided to come up with a set regulations for all media."

Under the new rules, OTT platforms will be required to self-classify content under 13+, 16+ and A (Adult) categories and will also be required to implement a parental lock mechanism to ensure adult content is not consumed by children.

Identify First Originator Of Digital Messages

Announcing the forming of two categories for social media, Prasad stated that platforms will be required to disclose the first originator of a mischievous message if asked by the government or a court.

"When we are asking about first originator, we are not talking about content. The simple question is who started this mischief? It will only be related to issues where punishment is for more than five years," Prasad said.

Prasad said the rationale behind this move is to ensure parties from outside India do not meddle with its internal affairs.

Under the new rules, social media companies also be required to self regulate to prevent misuse of their platforms.

"Social media is welcome to do business in India. They have done exceedingly well, they have good business, they have got good number of users and they have also empowered ordinary Indians.

"The government welcomes criticism and the right to dissent and social media has been used to ask questions too. Social media users should be given a proper forum for resolution of their grievances within a time bound manner against the abuse and misuse of social media. This is our focus," Prasad said.

Prasad said that social media platforms will be required to constitute a grievance redressal mechanism under which they are required to name a grievance officer who will register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days.

"We want a soft touch oversight mechanism where we are insisting upon the platform to develop the mechanism and have a robust redressal of grievances," Prasad said.

Prasad added that the government will allow social media companies three months to improve their mechanisms in compliance with the new law.

The joint press conference can be watched below

Updated On: 2021-02-26T20:17:47+05:30
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