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Opinion | New IT regulations for social media and OTT platforms are a welcome step

Opinion | New IT regulations for social media and OTT platforms are a welcome step
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | New IT regulations for social media and OTT platforms are a welcome step

The authorities on Thursday introduced IT guidelines for social media giants like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google and YouTube and digital OTT platforms like Netflix, Disney Hotstar and others, with explicit stress on self-regulation, adopted by an Oversight Mechanism to be put in place by the Centre. This is a welcome and revolutionary step taken by the federal government for the primary time for the reason that explosion of stories, views, leisure and different content material on social media platforms.

 
The guidelines permit freedom to all to precise one’s views via information, articles and cinematic medium, however a robust ‘laxman rekha’ has been drawn for those that submit poisonous content material on social media. Hate speeches, abusive feedback, obscenity, anti-national content material, rumours, lies and innuendoes in opposition to personalities, Constitutional functionaries and organizations, will invite swift retribution. The social media intermediaries must reveal the “originator” of illegal content material inside 72 hours and take motion in opposition to them.
 
The Supreme Court had directed the federal government to border complete regulations to make sure that social media intermediaries comply with Indian legal guidelines and the Constitution. The new IT regulations mandate social media intermediaries to nominate compliance and grievance officers to look into complaints that are acquired from the general public. Social media giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter and others can now now not withhold data on the supply of illegal and inflammatory messaging past 72 hours from investigating businesses. They should be immediate in eradicating objectionable content material, comparable to leakage of photographs or movies depicting nudity or sexual acts, regarding subscribers, significantly ladies. The social media platforms will now must take down any illegal content material inside a span of 36 hours, when requested via a courtroom order or on being notified by the federal government or its company.
 
Under the brand new IT regulations, intermediaries have been requested to nominate grievance officer, who ought to acknowledge a grievance inside 24 hours, and resolve it inside 15 days. They should additionally appoint Chief Compliance Officer and nodal contact individual.
 
The new regulations describe objectionable content material as those who threaten the safety or sovereignty of India, disturb public order, defamatory, obscene pornographic paedophilic, invasive of one other’s privateness, dangerous to minors, infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or different proprietary rights.
 
For the leisure trade, platforms like Netflix, Disney Hotstar and Amazon Prime must present age-related classifications for their content material, as a part of the brand new IT guidelines. The content material shall be divided into 5 classes – appropriate for common (U) viewing for ages 7 and above U/A 7+, for 13 years and above U/A 13+, for 16 years and above U/A 16+, and grownup (A). The content material classification shall additionally establish content material on the premise of the themes and message, violence, nudity, intercourse, language, drug and substance abuse, and horror.
 
A Code of Ethics can be drawn up for publishers of stories and present affairs content material and publishers of on-line curated content material to tell Information & Broadcasting Ministry about their particulars inside 30 days of publication of guidelines, or in 30 days from the beginning of their India operations. Publishers must arrange grievance redressal mechanism to obtain complaints in opposition to content material, ship acknowledgement of grievance to the complainant inside 24 hours, and resolve on complaints inside 15 days  The publishers shall publish month-to-month compliance report containing particulars of grievances acquired and motion taken.
 
Publishers who function inside India should arrange three-tier construction of self-regulation (1) by publishers, (2) self-regulation by self-regulating our bodies of publishers, and (3) oversight mechanism to be arrange by the Centre.  The I&B ministry will develop, publish, coordinate and facilitate adherence to Code of Ethics by publishers and self-regulating our bodies.  An Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) headed by an officer of Joint Secretary degree  will study complaints and grievances. The iDC can suggest that the ministry ought to challenge a warning or censure the writer of middleman, demand apology, or put up a warning card or disclaimer.  The closing choice can be taken by the I&B secretary on the premise of suggestions by IDC.
 
I’ve narrated particulars of the brand new IT guidelines, in order that readers and viewers can have a clear image of what’s on the anvil. Till date, there had been no guidelines for social and digital media to comply with, however to any extent further they must comply with the foundations and adjust to orders.
 
The query that’s being raised is whether or not the brand new IT guidelines will put fetters on the social media and curb freedom of speech and expression. Will they curb expression of dissent in opposition to the Centre? I need to make it clear, this isn’t a new legislation, it’s a algorithm framed to information and regulate the burgeoning social media, the place peddling of lies, rumours, baseless information, abuse, incendiary feedback, obscenity, nudity, threats and intimidation are rampant.
 
Let me evaluate the social and digital media with the information tv trade. News channels in India must follows a Code of Conduct  which is a part of the licence settlement. In addition to this the  News Broadcasters Association(NBA) has established a  self-regulation mechanism. National Broadcasting Standard Authority (NBSA) has been arrange, presently chaired by retired Supreme Court choose Arjun Sikri, which fits via all complaints acquired from most people, and censures or punishes information channels, in the event that they violate the foundations and regulations. NBSA is a self-regulatory physique consisting of Justice Sikri and different eminent residents. The solely flaw that is still is that there are a number of information channels who are not members of NBA, and are due to this fact not sure to comply with the Code of Conduct.  The optimistic facet is that many of the massive and widespread information channels are members of NBA and they comply with the rules. Similar, the newspaper trade is regulated by Press Council of India, once more headed by a retired Supreme Court choose. The PCI censure/admonishes/punishes newspapers that violates code of conduct for publishers.
 
In social media, there are many so-called ‘news channels’ on YouTube and a plethora of digital information portals, that are not accountable to any authority. There is not any discussion board for the frequent public, the place one can air grievances or file complaints. Self-regulation and “oversight mechanism” by the federal government have now been launched via the brand new IT guidelines.
 
Those who might elevate query about curbs on freedom of speech and expression ought to perceive that social media, until now, had been a fertile floor for mischief makers, who used to abuse, threaten or intimidate individuals via photographs, movies and texts, and even went to the extent of indulging in seditious exercise. Even among the many frequent public, say a man and a lady broke up their relationship, and the person posted obscene footage to torment his ex-girlfriend. The lady and her household used to run from pillar to submit, as a result of social media intermediaries by no means took up such complaints or grievances. The new IT guidelines will put an finish to this.
If a lady or her members of the family submit their grievance, the content material will now must eliminated by the social media intermediaries inside 72 hours.
 
On Thursday evening in my prime time present ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, I interviewed IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the brand new IT guidelines. He was emphatic on one level: the brand new IT guidelines won’t put curbs on freedom of speech and expression, however the brand new regulations will catch all those that unfold lies, innuendoes, baseless information, and incendiary feedback. Till now, it was very troublesome to establish the “originator” of baseless information and lies, and massive IT giants like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp had been unwilling to share the establish of the “originator”. With the enforcement of latest IT guidelines, they must establish the mischief maker, in order that safety businesses can take motion in opposition to those that unfold incendiary content material.

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India’s Number One and probably the most adopted Super Prime Time News Show ‘Aaj Ki Baat – Rajat Sharma Ke Saath was launched just before the 2014 General Elections. Since its inception, the show is redefining India’s super-prime time and is numerically far forward of its contemporaries.

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