The regulatory rules for social media companies, streaming, and digital news publishers have been passed by The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Thursday. Which for the first time brings these platforms under the reach of government.
Through a press conference, Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar, announced The “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021”. As per the ministers, these rules are intended to tackle the problem of “rampant abuse of social media platforms” and the spreading of fake news.
They also stated that these rules will build “soft touch progressive institutional mechanism with level-playing field”, with an ethical code of conduct for the publishing of content and a reporting mechanism for removal of content.
The rules include that the social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter have to disclose the details of the originator of a message or tweet on being asked by the court or government-related authority.
“Who began the mischief, the social media platforms will be required to disclose the first originator of the message or tweet,” Prasad said. “If the message originated from outside of India, then give details about who first shared it in the country.”
The government will form an inter-departmental committee with the representatives from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team.
This Committee will have “suo motu powers” to addresses the cases of breaking of code of conduct. This committee can warn, or censure the violaters.
The government will nominate an officer of the rank of a Joint Secretary or above as an “Authorised Officer” who can directly block the content if they violate the new guidelines. They can share the content with the government’s committee for the issue of blocking orders.
The India-based compliance officer has to be chosen by the big social media houses for the removal of content as per the rules and inform the users of the same.
Streaming platforms have to classify their content based on nudity, sex, and violence shown for various age groups. So that the children don’t have the access to unapproved content.
The rules under the Press Council of India have to be followed by digital news publisher houses. Information and Broadcasting Ministry site will register new websites.
All the social media content that is defamatory, obscene, libelous, racist, harmful to minors, threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security, or sovereignty of India and its ties with other countries will have to be removed within 36 hours of being notified.
Grievance officers have to be appointed by social media companies to address the complaints and resolve the issues within a month.
An intermediary will also be there to remove illegal or hateful content within 24 hours of a complaint.
A three-tier mechanism to implement the Code of Ethics will be set up. The first one will be self-regulation by the publisher, the next one will be a self-regulating body headed by a retired supreme court or high court judge and the third will be an inter-ministerial committee set up by the government.
All these regulations and code of ethics seems to be violating the right to privacy as the end to end encryption of the chats will have to be sacrificed to comply with the rules.
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