By News Desk with inputs from agencies and other reports.
In February 2021, the Central Government implemented the Information Technology (Guiding principles For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) rules and regulations, 2021. The Guidelines predominantly extend to OTT forums and digital networks.
This initiative has been adopted to guarantee that India’s social networking system is significantly safer and more accountable.
So, what are the provisions of the law that have sparked so much debate on the issue?
- The legislation requires social media platforms to place a grievance redressal framework to terms with complaints from account holders or victims. All prominent social networking platforms with more than 50 lakh users must designate a grievance officer to better process such concerns and disclose the contact information of such individuals.
- The new IT Rules mandate noticeably better responses to content issues, which has not always been the reality in the past.
What are the parameters for the mechanism of grievance redressal?
The proposed IT government regulations contemplate a complex three-tiered regulatory regime, with government workers at the apex.
- In the first level, digital platforms must designate an independent compliance officer who is a citizen of India to accurately determine whether a grievance regarding material posted by the platform should be sustained, in which scenario the platform may be instructed to issue a retraction of the original article or issue an apology or rectification. This officer’s judgment on complaints should be rendered within 15 days.
- The next level is composed up of groups developed by the platform to function as a monitoring authority. This committee is accountable for maintaining that the publication obligates the Code of Ethics. Publisher self-regulation groups should enrol with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
If a complainant is unsatisfied with the approach their grievance was addressed in tier 1, they may seek such a body.
- The third layer is destined to be an inter-ministerial committee comprised of central government secretaries that can completely censor anything that has been objected to or take down a website altogether for a length of time. It will focus on providing a code for self-regulating entities, incorporating the Codes of Practice.
So, in compliance with the IT regulations, here are the new proposals for OTT Services, News Companies, and Digital Content:
- The new guidelines refer to OTT platforms as “publishers of online curated content.”
- They would have to identify and classify the material independently into five age brackets as follows:
- U (Universal)
- U/A 7+
- U/A 13+
- U/A 16+
- A (Adult)
- OTT systems would be obligated to focus on providing parental lock systems for content labelled U/A 13+ or higher, as well as an age authentication mechanism for material judged ‘Adult.’
- Before the show begins, the overall rating for the staff should be publicly indicated so that viewers may make required judgments based on relevance. Together with the rating, the description of the content should also include a viewer discretion notice, if considered necessary.
- In an attempt to develop a level playing field between offline (print, TV) and electronic content, broadcasters of news on digital media should try to adhere to the Press Council of India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act 1995.
- The regulations contain a tracking provision that stipulates social media sites to identify “the initial source of the data” if authorities demand it.
What are the Implications of the New IT Rules 2021:
It will require social media platforms to implement greater accountability on their networks.
The new regulations may aid the country get rid of the dissemination of misleading information via WhatsApp University (or analogous, comparable platforms) and the manipulation of technology in propagating immoral content.
Citizens will be encouraged as a part of the recent IT rules. Because there is a system for redressal and prompt solution to their specific concerns, individuals will not be hesitant to voice their issues with the expectation of having an appropriate course of action undertaken and not being neglected.
Negative comments about the new IT Rules 2021
One cannot doubt the influence and control that stating one’s viewpoint, even privately, may have on individuals for unexpected negative repercussions that may be completely unjust but legally valid.
The guidelines make it viable for the authorities to impose a tracking system. This essentially indicates that the user’s privacy is being jeopardized.
This data vulnerability sparked a huge backlash, with several memes circulating on social media.
WhatsApp VS the new IT rules:
WhatsApp, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit with the Indian government over its privacy policies, has initiated a court case against the government over the new IT Rules 2021, saying that it will hamper the end-to-end encryption.
In practice, however, there is no difference in the manner you regularly engage with any social networking platform daily as long as you aren’t breaching both national and community guidelines by sharing inappropriate or potentially hazardous content. That is completely within the purview of forceful action, legal or otherwise.
WhatsApp currently suspended approximately 2 million Indian accounts from May 15 and June 15, 2021, based on the current Facebook-owned messaging platform’s first monthly compliance statement issued under India’s new IT laws.
According to PTI, WhatsApp has clearly stated that over 95 per cent of restrictions on Indian user profiles were the outcome of inappropriate usage of automated or bulk messaging.
( Story by KSHVID News Desk with inputs from agencies and other reports)