The Government of India (GoI,) on the 25th of February, announced a set of guidelines for the use of social media platforms.
As per media sources, the release of new guidelines was in the wake of increasing crimes and misuse of the social media platforms.
The new guidelines mandated firms to appoint grievance officers, disclose the first originator of the mischievous information and remove, within 24 hours, content depicting nudity or morphed pictures of women.
Concerned about crimes against women and other misuses, the GoI brought a soft touch control over the use.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Information Technology Minister of Information Technology of India, while announcing the guidelines said, “There is a rationale behind framing the new guidelines. The Supreme Court had asked us to frame guidelines to cut down hate content and there are also many orders of the high courts.”
Mr. Prasad further said, “The Government has done widespread consultation after drafting the rules. Social media is empowered and welcome to do business in India.
Highlighting the reason for this step, Mr. Prasad said, “We have received many complaints that some of the content on social media is impinging on the dignity of many users.”
As per the new rules, social media intermediaries have to appoint a grievance officer, who shall register complaints in 24 hours. The grievance redressal official must be resident in India, and monthly compliance reports would be filed by social media platforms.
Social media platforms on being asked by court or government will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous information. The guidelines would be followed by social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, blogs and other websites. Publishers of news and current affairs content would also be under the scrutiny of these officers.
In case of OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar Disney+, Voot, Zee5, the Government established a three evel grievance redressal mechanism. These three levels include: self regulation by the publishers, self regulation by the self regulating bodies of the publishers, and an oversight mechanism.
All OTT platforms should self classify its content into five categories based on age, namely: U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
* Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as ‘A’.
Voluntary verification mechanism of users:
* All social media platforms will have a provision for voluntary verification mechanism of the users.
* If the platforms seek to disable access to the content of any social media user, they are required to give him reasons and also hear him out.
The major concern behind the release of the guidelines are:
Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries, Grievance redressal mechanism and Ensuring online safety and dignity of users, specially women users.
The appointed grievance officers would be active and would act upon the complaint within 24 hours. The matter should be resolved in 15 days from the filing date. The officer should be a resident of India and would be responsible for the complaint.
In a population of 133 crores, the number of users across various platforms in India are: WhatsApp 53 crores, YouTube 44.8 crores, Facebook 41 crores, Instagram 21 crores and Twitter 1.75 crores.
The new guidelines are likely to be implemented within the next three months However, an official announcement over the implementation date is awaited.
Stay tuned for further updates.