Govt frames new rules to hold social media, OTT accountable for content

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The Centre Thursday notified new pointers for intermediaries in “soft touch oversight” rules, saying these have been wanted to hold social media and different corporations accountable for “misuse and abuse”. These would require Big Tech platforms to arrange stronger grievance redressal mechanisms, and appoint executives to coordinate with legislation enforcement in India.

For social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and many others, the rules basically take away the “safe harbour” supplied to these corporations — it restricted their legal responsibility over content that customers posted on their platforms — if the platforms don’t adjust to due diligence norms.

The rules additionally name for a three-tier regulation mechanism for over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and many others and require them to self-classify their content into 5 classes based mostly on age suitability.

The authorities’s transfer comes amid a flurry of exercise throughout geographies over the past 12 months to body new rules geared toward policing Big Tech, which can power a number of the world’s Most worthy corporations to essentially recalibrate their enterprise fashions so as to keep in keeping with these rules.

Although the federal government had been engaged on these rules since 2018, work on issuing the new pointers gained contemporary momentum after the de-platforming of former US President Donald Trump and the more moderen spat between the IT ministry and microblogging web site Twitter over elimination of sure accounts affiliated with the farm protests.

The rules additionally appear to take a maximalist place, pushed by each the energy of the person numbers of the Indian market and rising realisation inside the administration of the tech teams’ dissemination powers encroaching on the ambit of the state, particularly on points regarding governance and legislation and order.

Reiterating that social media corporations have been welcome to do enterprise in India however would have to comply with the legal guidelines set in India, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad mentioned whereas the federal government was open to criticism and proper to dissent, it was “equally important” that the customers of social media be given a discussion board to elevate their grievances towards “the misuse and abuse” of such platforms.

“The social media users running into crores should also be given a proper forum for resolution of their grievances in a time-bound manner,” Prasad instructed a press convention.

While all of the rules have been framed and notified beneath the present Information Technology (IT) Act, the executive powers for regulation of OTT and digital information sharing platforms shall be beneath the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).

The new pointers place extra onus on practically all such corporations which offer a platform to host, share, view or modify content, whereas additionally together with for the primary time, entities that are within the enterprise of both creating or distributing information on-line beneath the ambit of a web based middleman.

Among the primary, the federal government has made social media intermediaries extra liable for the content being shared on their platform by following due diligence, failing which the “safe harbour provisions” won’t be relevant to them.

These protected harbour provisions have been outlined beneath Section 79 of the IT Act, and shield social media intermediaries by giving them immunity from authorized prosecution for any content posted on their platforms.

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However, the safety supplied fails if the federal government notifies the middleman of “any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act” and the platforms fails to “expeditiously remove or disable access to that material”.

Further, social media intermediaries will even be required to have a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, appointing a grievance officer whose title and phone particulars may have to be shared, a resident grievance officer who shall have an workplace in India and might be an Indian passport-holding citizen, and a chief compliance officer.

The chief compliance officer, who may have to be current in India, shall be accountable for guaranteeing the platform’s compliance with the IT Act and the rules notified Thursday, Prasad mentioned.

A nodal contact one that might be obtainable round the clock for “coordination with law enforcement agencies” will even have to be appointed by social media intermediaries, he mentioned.

A month-to-month compliance report on the complaints obtained, the motion taken and the redressal for such complaints will even have to be revealed by the intermediaries, he mentioned.

The second main change introduced in with the new rules is making social media intermediaries extra liable for “identification of the first originator of the information”.

“Social media intermediaries, upon being asked either by the court or by a government authority, will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message, as the case may be,” Prasad mentioned.

The platform will, nevertheless, be liable to disclose the originator of the message “only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order”.

In an announcement, social media big Facebook mentioned: “We have always been clear as a company that we welcome regulations that set guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges on the Internet… The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules that were just published.”.

Twitter didn’t touch upon the rules.

Social media intermediaries will now additionally want to hint originators of messages which name for incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually specific materials or little one sexual abuse materials punishable with imprisonment for a time period of not lower than 5 years. The authorities has, on a previous event, engaged with Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp to search traceability of sure customers, a request that the platform denied.

Apart from these, social media corporations have been requested to give customers an opportunity for clarification and a good alternative to be heard earlier than eradicating entry to their accounts.

The rules for OTT platforms additionally comply with a “soft-touch self-regulatory architecture” and name for on-line digital information disseminating businesses to self-categorise their content into one of many 5 age-based broad classes.

“The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme, enabling the user to make an informed decision prior to watching the programme,” Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar mentioned.

A self-regulatory physique, headed both by a retired Supreme Court or High Court decide or an impartial eminent individual, shall even be fashioned, which is able to make sure the compliance of ethics and rules by on-line digital information platforms.

The ministry shall, in the end of time, “formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances”.

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