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The IT Ministry has come up with a new set of rules that strictly monitor ‘offensive’ content on social media, and such social media companies have been told to disclose the first or originator of a ‘mischievous’ message or tweet. This raises questions on end-to-end encryption and subsequently privacy.
The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, lays down the mechanism of self-regulating bodies that shall be headed by a “retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, who shall be appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry”.
The concerned Regulatory body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and it is tasked to oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics, and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days. The body is mandated to provide guidance to all such social media and OTT platform entities on various aspects of the Code of Ethics.
As per the rules, a self-regulating body while disposing a grievance or an appeal will have to issue guidance or advisories to the applicable publisher/entities as under:
(a) warning, censuring, admonishing or reprimanding such entity;
(b) requiring an apology by such entity; or
(c) requiring such entity to include a warning card or a disclaimer; or
(d) in case of online curated content, direct such entity to (i) reclassify ratings of relevant content; (ii) make appropriate modification in the content descriptor, age classification and access control measures; (iii) edit synopsis of relevant content;
For more transparency, the rules also require the entities and bodies to publish a monthly compliance report giving details of all complaints received and action taken on the complaints. The details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediaries need to be filed too in the report.
In order to address the grievances, Rule 8(3) lays down three levels that was initially pitched by various users:
(a) Level I – Self-regulation by the applicable entity- Any digital news entity shall appoint an India based Grievance Redressal Officer, for addressing grievances. He shall act as the nodal point for interaction with the complainant, the self-regulating body and the Ministry. The complainant must be informed of its decision within 15 days.
A person, who is dissatisfied with the response of the Grievance Redressal Officer, can appeal to the self-regulating body formed for the concerned entity. As a last resort, an appeal can be made to the Central Government.
(b) Level II — Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities- As mentioned above, all applicable entities shall form an independent Self-Regulatory Body that shall be headed by a retired judge of either the top court or a High Court, appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry.
The Body will further comprise of maximum six members, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.
(c) Level III – Oversight mechanism by the Central Government- If the applicable entity fails to comply with the advisories of the self-regulating body, the body is mandated to refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism within prescribed time.
The Oversight Mechanism can publish a charter, including Codes of Practices for self-regulating bodies, develop the Grievance portal for prompt disposal of the grievance, establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances of users, etc.
Notification by the Significant publishers and content creators
Rule 16 provides that a significant “publisher of news and current affairs content” shall mandatorily notify the Broadcast Seva that “it is operating in the territory of India, by furnishing the information that may be required on the Broadcast Seva by the Ministry, for the purpose of enabling communication and coordination with such publisher.”
A significant publisher of news and current affairs content creator is determined if it:
(a) publishes news and current affairs content as a systematic business activity;
(b) operates in the territory of India;
(c) has not less than five lakh subscribers, or fifty lakh followers on the services of any significant social media intermediary, as the case may be.
The Rules may be read here: