The Indian Internet has Changed: The Latest Social Media & OTT Platform Laws by GoI

Rajan Sarma | Monday, 01 March 2021, 11:48 IST

The Indian Government last week on Thursday announced new regulatory rules on Social Media Platforms and OTT service providers operating across the country. The new laws under the name “Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethhics Code” calls for more accountability on the part of online content being shared over online platforms. The guidelines urge OTT platforms to make their content more secure for children by labelling their content as per the new guidelines and providing parental lock mechanisms. In addition to that, Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and intermediaries such as WhatsApp are required to pull down any content from their platforms within 36 hours, once a complaint has been logged against a creator. 

While the efforts made by the government to call for mandatory compartmentalization of OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime into five age-based categories - U (Universal), U/A 7 years, U/A 13 years, U/A 16 years, and A (Adult) has been well thought out by the government. The decision to curb content on Social Media platforms on the grounds of being “mischievous or malicious” has not been well received by Netizen at all.

Internet freedom advocates on Friday further warned that the new Indian social media regulations could pose a serious threat to freedom of expression, after New Delhi announced plans for tough new rules that could force platforms to remove content if deemed objectionable.

Here are a few additional things to keep in mind about the government’s recent Social Media & OTT Platform guidelines:

  • OTT platforms will also have to provide a system of parental lock in their services.
  • OTT players must take into consideration, India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context diaspora when featuring content relating to any racial or religious group.
  • Digital media channels will have to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.
  • It is mandatory for companies to appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India who will be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it from users. The officer will have to make the decision on every grievance received to the the company within 15 days.
  • A body of self-regulatory publishers will be set-up to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person, and not have more than six members under the judge.

Facebook was the first Social Media player to respond to the new guidelines announced by the government of India. One of the Facebook spokesperson said – “We have always been clear as a company that we welcome regulations that set guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges on the Internet. Facebook is committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platforms. The details of rules like these matters and we will carefully study the new rules that were just published,” Twitter on the other hand is silent regarding the matter, and yet to come up with any official statement.

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