New social media rules: For players like WhatsApp, which are end-to-end encrypted, this could mean they will be forced to break encryption in India in order to comply.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) issued new guidelines for social media companies, Over the Top (OTT) players and digital media publishers on Thursday.
Most significantly the rules for social media companies call on them to give out the originator of a message or tweet. For players like WhatsApp, which are end-to-end encrypted, this could mean they will be forced to break encryption in India in order to comply.
Recently, during the ongoing famers protest there was a huge tussle between the Indian government and Twitter where the govt ordered the social media platform to remove certain hashtags on an urgent basis. During the According to a press release the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology secretary expressed “strong displeasure” on the way Twitter had responded after “an emergency order was issued to remove this hashtag and content related to that.”
During a press conference, chaired by Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad, the latter listed the features of the guidelines, which has been divided into two categories: Social media intermediary and Significant social media intermediary.
“We have not framed any new law. We have framed these rules under the existing IT ACT,” said MeITY minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announcing these rules. “We are trusting the platforms to follow these regulations,” he said. “The focus of this guideline is on self-regulation.”
The Rules will come in effect from the date of their publication in the gazette, except for the additional due diligence for significant social media intermediaries, which shall come in effect three months after publication of these Rules.
The rules also made a distinction between a significant social media intermediary and a regular social media intermediary. The government is yet to define the user size to determine who will constitute as a significant social media intermediary, though the Minister indicated players with more than 50 lakh users will be considered.
According to the guidelines:
1. Social media platforms will need to establish a grievance redressal mechanism. Platforms will also have to name a grievance officer, who must register a grievance in 24 hours and redress it in 15 days.
2. If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly of women (exposure of their private parts, nudity or sexual act, impersonation etc), platforms will be required to remove that in 24 hours after a complaint is made
The social media platforms upon being asked either by the court or by the Govt. authority will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or a message: Union Minister @rsprasad#ResponsibleFreedom #OTTGuidelines pic.twitter.com/qU9A197bah
— PIB India (@PIB_India) February 25, 2021
Significant social media intermediaries guidelines
- Appoint a chief compliance officer resident in India who will be responsible for ensuring the compliance of the acts and the rules.
- Appoint a nodal contact person (resident of India) for having 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- Appoint a resident grievance officer who will perform the grievance redressal mechanism. These intermediaries are required to deliver a monthly compliance report on the number of grievances filed, and if/how they were redressed
Social media platform guidelines
- The social media platforms upon being asked either by the court or by the government will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet/ message.
- The social media platforms must have a provision for a voluntary verification mechanism of the users.
Digital media platform guidelines
OTT platform guidelines
- OTT and Digital news media have to disclosed their details
- Black small squareGrievance redressal system for Digital and OTT platforms
- Black small squareSelf regulatory body headed by retired SC or HC judge
The government welcomes criticism and right to dissent but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media: Union Minister @rsprasad#ResponsibleFreedom#OTTGuidelinespic.twitter.com/nsowrwbzt0
— PIB India (@PIB_India) February 25, 2021
IB Minister Prakash Javedkar also said that OTT platforms need to do a self-classification of age-related content. Platforms will need to provide a parental lock for content that is rated for 13 years+ users.
Additionally, the Centre says it will create a ‘Grievance Portal’ and any person with a complaint with content in OTT platforms or digital media may register the complaint with the ‘Grievance Portal’. The complaint will first be forwarded by Centre to the concerned entity. In case the complainant is dissatisfied with the response of the Grievance Redressal Officer, they can appeal to the self-regulating body formed for the concerned entity. Further appeals can be made to the central government.
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