Sweeping changes in social media rules; govt to regulate OTTs, digital news portals

By: |
February 26, 2021 4:45 AM

Legal experts believe tracing originators could be susceptible to falsification and also to breaking encryption. In the past, WhatsApp has expressed its inability to provide traceability of messages saying it amounts to breaking encryption.

These new regulations are being framed under the Information Technology Act, 2000.These new regulations are being framed under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Intermediaries like WhatsApp must identify the first originator of messages deemed mischievous by the government and all intermediaries will need to pull down unlawful content within 36 hours of it being flagged, following draft guidelines announced on Thursday. Streaming services like Netflix and Google’s YouTube must self-regulate and classify content in categories according to age.

Also, digital news media organisations can be directed by the government to remove any content under Section 69A of the IT Act which it finds objectionable from the point of view of law and order, country’s sovereignty, integrity, or friendly relations with neighbouring countries.
These new regulations are being framed under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The draft rules say that OTT players must take into consideration, “India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context” when featuring content relating to any racial or religious group.

Stand-alone digital media organisations need to follow the code of journalistic ethics laid down by Press Council of India,currently observed by print media and the Cable and TV Regulation Act, which applies to television news.

Messaging platforms would now need to appoint grievance redressal officers in the country and resolve consumer grievances within a specific time period; they must also designate nodal officers to co-ordinate with the government on law and order matters.

The government has described the guidelines to regulate OTT platforms and stand-alone digital news media outlets, being framed for the first time, as light-touch regulations aimed at creating a level-play field between these entities and print and TV media as well as films and entertainment shows on television channels.

Internet Freedom Foundation(IFF) observed on its wesite that the proposed regulationof OTT and media to be unconstitutional with the oversight mechanism being created without any legislative backing. “The purview of the IT Act 2000 does not extend to news media,and so the guidelines,do not have the legislative backing to regulate news media,” the organisation wrote.

Legal experts believe tracing originators could be susceptible to falsification and also to breaking encryption. In the past, WhatsApp has expressed its inability to provide traceability of messages saying it amounts to breaking encryption.

The government, however, clarified that by seeking to know the originator of the message it is not asking the intermediatory to break any encryption. Recently Twitter complied only partly with the government’s directives to block over 1,100 tweets/accounts.

OTTs like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video now need to self-classify all content into five age-based categories as is done by films and TV currently. The categories are — U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Stand –alone digital entities must disclose information related to their ownership details etc in a prescribed format to the government, much like the print and television news media.

Consumers who believe OTT guidelines have been violated or that digital news media outlets have breached the rules may seek redressal through a three-level redressal mechanism. The first level comprises the publishers/owners while the second level would comprise the self-regulating bodies of publishers/owners headed by a retired judge of Supreme Court, or High Courts, or a domain expert. The third is an oversight mechanism comprising an inter-departmental government panel.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, Check out latest IPO News, Best Performing IPOs, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Loss of critical data can cripple any business in no time: Manish Gupta, Senior Director & GM, Infrastructure Solutions Group, Dell Technologies India
2Facebook users can appeal harmful content to oversight board
3Microsoft launches Surface Laptop 4 in a range of configurations with both Intel, AMD processors