Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar announced Centre’s guidelines for digital news organisations, and code of ethics for social media and OTT platforms
Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar addressed a press conference at the National Media Centre in New Delhi on Thursday (February 25) to announce the Centre’s new guidelines for digital news organisations and code of ethics for social media and OTT (over the top) platforms.
According to the new Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have to remove or disable contentious content within 24 hours from the platform.
While laying the guidelines, Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that posts on offences related to sovereignty of India, security, relations with other states and rape must be removed immediately, adding that if a user’s content is disabled, the person must be given the reasons why it was done. "Originator of posts abusing sovereignty, security, relations with other states and rape must be revealed," he said.
He added that users must be given a platform to resolve grievances in a time bound manner. "Social media is welcome to do business in India. We welcome criticism and the right to dissent. Users of social media should be given a forum for resolution of grievances against abuse of social media. "But there should be no double standards. Social media cannot have different stands for riots on Capitol Hill and Red Fort,” he said, adding that Parliament, court and civil society have raised concerns about abuse of social media and fake news time and again.
"Social media platforms have been used to promote violence and chaos from across the border. Such platforms are used by terrorists to cause mayhem and chaos in India," he said.
I&B minister Prakash Javadekar added that a level playing field was needed for all media platforms, including OTT. "OTT platforms have failed to come up with self-regulation mechanisms. So, there will be an institutional regulatory mechanism for OTT. There will be three-tier platform for OTT — 13 plus, 16 plus and A categories. This apart, there has to be a mechanism for parent lock. Media freedom is absolute but with reasonable restrictions. Digital media cannot spread rumours and lies," said Javadekar.
He stated that the government was following developments in Australia and other countries on making social media pay for news content. "We are not asking you to disclose content, but just the originator in cases where punishment is more than five years," said Javadekar.
He added that OTT service providers must be sensitive to multi-religious context. "OTT players shall exercise due caution while featuring activities, practices of any racial, religious group. They shall classify content based on violence, nudity, sex, language, classification to be displayed prominently," he said.
There will also be a self-regulatory body which will be headed by a retired judge or an eminent person. "Self-regulation mechanisms will have to address grievances of users," said Javadekar.