The government on Thursday issued the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 for social media platforms, OTT (over-the-top) platforms and digital media.
The government called the proposed framework progressive, liberal and contemporaneous. It seeks to address peoples' varied concerns while removing any misapprehension about curbing creativity and freedom of speech and expression, the government claimed. Here are the key highlights of the newly released rules:
* The rules prescribe the due diligence to be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by an intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.
* The intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, will have to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for resolving complaints received from users or victims. They will have to appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints, and share the name and contact details of such officer. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.
* Intermediaries will have to remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of content that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images, among others. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.
* The rules make a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform. The government is empowered to notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. The significant social media intermediaries will have to follow additional due diligence.
* The significant social media intermediaries will have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and rules. Such a person should be a resident in India.
* They will also have to appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, and a Resident Grievance Officer. Both the persons should be a resident in India.
* The significant social media intermediaries, providing services primarily in the nature of messaging, will have to enable identification of first originator of the information that is required 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 or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.
* If the intermediaries remove or disable access to any information on their own accord, then a prior intimation for the same will have to be communicated to the user who has shared the information, with a notice explaining the grounds and reasons for such action. Users must also be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.
* The intermediaries upon receiving an order by a court or being notified by appropriate government or its agencies through authorised officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, among others
* The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, will have to self-classify the content into five age based categories -- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms will 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".
* Publishers of news on digital media will be required to observe norms of journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.
* OTT platforms will have a three-level grievance redressal mechanism under the rules with different levels of self-regulation.