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Social media will be asked to reveal the first originator of mischievous tweet or message: Govt releases guidelines

Union Minister for Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, Ravi Shankar PrasadPremium
Union Minister for Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad

  • Posts regarding dignity of women will be ordered to be removed in 24 hours, said Ravi Shankar Prasad in Cabinet briefing
  • OTT platforms to have to have self regulation bodies headed by a retired judge or an eminent person, I&B minister Javadekar said

Union Cabinet ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday addressed the media on cabinet decisions on rampant misuse of social media in the country.

IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, briefed the media about the Code of Ethics and self-regulation for social media content including streaming platforms, especially over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

Social media is welcome to do business but must not overrule the dignity of civilised existence, he added. "The government welcomes criticism and right to dissent but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media," RS Prasad said.

"Of late, some very disturbing developments are observed on the social media platforms. Persistent spread of fake news has compelled many media platforms to create fact-check mechanisms.Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. Misuse of social media for settling corporate rivalriesin blatantly unethical manner has become a major concern for businesses.Instances of use of abusive language, defamatory and obscene contents and blatant disrespect to religious sentiments through platforms are growing," the government said in a statement.

However, highlighting the rampant misinformation in the form of fake news and misuse of social media content, the union minister listed a number of social media regulations in the country. He said that the government will be giving three months of implementation of rules for significant social media intermediaries adding that the cabinet will notify the same soon.

"The social media platform will be asked to require to reveal the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message as the case may be and this should only be in the connection to integrity and sovereignty of India," the minister added.

'Posts relating to offences related to the sovereignty of India, security, relations with other states and rape must be removed. If you disable content of a user you must give him reasons," he emphasised.

Posts regarding dignity of women will be ordered to be removed in 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf, the new guidelines said.

Social media being used by criminal terrorists to cause mayhem, chaos in India, Prasad says, while launching a 'soft touch regulatory mechanism.'

"It was found that currently there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. Lack of transparency and absence of robust grievance redressal mechanism have left the users totally dependent on the whims and fancies of social media platforms. Often it has been seen that a user who has spent his time, energy and money in developing a social media profile is left with no remedies in case that profile is restricted or removed by the platform without giving any opportunity to be heard," the government statement added.

Establishment of Grievance Portal and registration of grievance:

-Ministry will establish an online Grievance Portal, as the central repository for receiving and processing all grievances from the public in respect of the Code of Ethics, within three months of the commencement of the rules.

-Any person having a grievance regarding content published by an applicable entity in relation to the Code of Ethics may register its grievance on the Grievance Portal.

-The Portal shall generate and issue an acknowledgement of the grievance a the benefit of the complainant within 24 hours of its registration, and electronically direct the grievance to the applicable entity for addressing the grievance, and also refer such grievance to the Ministry and the self-regulating body for information and record.

Regarding OTT platforms, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said, "All media platforms must have the same justices, digital, OTT and TV."

All OTT platforms need to have a self-regulation body, Javadekar added.

Every freedom has to be responsible freedom, the I&B minister said, adding that there will be three-tier platform for OTTs to have to have self regulation bodies headed by a retired judge or an eminent person.

Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;

Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;

Level-III: Oversight mechanism.

He also informed that media freedom is absolute but with reasonable restrictions adding that OOT platforms will have 13+, 16+ and 'A' categories. Along with that, there has to be a mechanism for parent lock, Javadekar said.

The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme, the statement read.

Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media., it added.When asked about Australia's passing a law that would make Facebook and Google pay for news earlier, Javadekar informed, "India is following those developments with respect to making social media platforms pay for news content."

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court that it was contemplating "some action" on the issue of regulating OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The ministry had earlier told the top court in a separate case that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media. 

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