The Government of India has notified the new rules for digital news published and OTT (Over The Top) platforms. The new rules aim to bring online news published under the same regulations as the traditional media publishers such as news channels or newspapers. The new rules will apply to social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar and several others.
In the notification, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said, “The Government of India has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 on 25.02.2021. Part III of Rules pertains to digital news publishers and publishers of online curated content (OTT platforms). The rules require the publishers to adhere to the Code of Ethics, establish a Grievance redressal Mechanism, and furnish information to the Government of India.”.
The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
In February, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Law & Justice, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Minister and Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Information & Broadcasting had announced the new guidelines and regulations under The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The government mentioned Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 that gives the government the power to make such rules.
The guidelines published by the IT ministry contains comprehensive guidelines for social media platforms, which has been defined as ‘social media intermediaries’ which primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services.
New rules will tighten the noose on social media giants and fake news peddlers
The new guidelines have classified the platforms into two categories that are significant social media intermediaries and other intermediaries. The guidelines contain additional responsibilities for “significant social media intermediary”, which means major platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It is now mandatory for the platforms to have a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and rules made under it. They also have to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer.
As per the guidelines, several restrictions have been imposed on the content that the users can post. It has been mandatory for the social media giants to inform the users that they cannot content in several categories such as defamatory, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy and so on. It also curbs the spread of fake news on social media platforms.
The new guidelines make it essential to clearly mark posts with advertisement or promotion. This may have a significant impact on social media influencers and celebrities, who often post promotional material disguised as personal opinion in return for payment.
The guidelines also create a wall between the users and fake news or misinformation. It is now mandatory for social media platforms to share information about the originator of the information. This will change the current scenario when social media sites, especially Twitter, suspends accounts without giving them an opportunity to defend.
The new guidelines also brought online news portals under similar rules like print media and news channels. You can check a comprehensive explanation of the new guidelines here.