Draft Govt Rules Proposes 3-Tier Regulation of Social Media, OTT

The government has indicated that it wants to regulate social media as well as OTT platforms on content moderation.

2 min read
Hindi Female

The government has drafted a set of rules to regulate both, social media platforms as well as streaming platforms which include provisions for moderating content, carrying out blocking orders and a grievance redressal mechanism, Hindustan Times reported.

The draft comes soon after the Centre informed the Parliament earlier in February that IT Rules are being amended to make social media platforms more responsive and accountable to Indian laws.

In early February, the government and Twitter also had major differences related to content moderation, as the microblogging platform initially pushed back against the Union Electronics & IT Ministry’s order to block over 1,500 accounts related to the farmers’protest.

Similarly, OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have also come under fire for airing content that some claimed “hurt religious sentiments”, Tandav being the latest example.

According to the HT report, in the 30-page document, titled Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, guidelines define social media companies, suggest a three-tier mechanism for regulation of all online media, define the process for tracing the first originator, and confer blocking powers to an inter-ministerial committee.

This draft also seeks to regulate OTT platforms and comes at a time when the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), on 11 February, already announced the adoption of a ‘toolkit’ to implement the Universal Self-Regulation Code that was signed by 17 major streaming services and put in motion on 4 September 2020.

However, reports have suggested that the Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry), which brought streaming platforms under its jurisdiction in November, has a number of concerns with the self-regulation code.


What the Draft Rules Contain?

The draft contains a three-tier regulatory mechanism, according to the HT report. The first tier of the regulatory mechanism is grievance redressal by the company itself; the second level involves a Press Council of India-like regulatory body that will be headed by a retired judge of a high court or the Supreme Court.

The third-tier will comprise an inter-ministerial committee and will be headed by a joint secretary-level officer from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. In effect, in addition to the IT ministry, this committee would also recommend blocks or take downs, the report states.

The inter-ministerial committee that is at the apex of the regulatory framework will have representatives from the ministries of IT, information and broadcasting, home, law, external affairs, defence, and women and child development.

The draft rules would also require intermediaries like social media platforms appointing a chief compliance officer. The officer will be responsible for issues of compliance and be held liable if the intermediary fails to observe due diligence while discharging its duties, the HT report stated.

Another provision in the rules is asking social media intermediaries, which operate primarily in the area of messaging, to enable the identification of the first originator in a bid to tackle fake news.

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