Regulatory Updates0Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

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The aforementioned rule for the first time prescribes, for the first time, how digital news organisations, social media and OTT platforms will be regulated by the Indian Government. Salient features of new social media rules:

Due Diligence To Be Followed By Intermediaries: The Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism: The Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.

Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officers. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.

Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Specially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 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 a 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.

Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries: To encourage innovations and enable the growth of new social media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirements, the Rules make a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.

This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform. The government is empowered to notify the threshold of the user base that will distinguish between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. The Rules require the significant social media intermediaries to follow certain additional due diligence.

Additional Due Diligence to Be Followed by Significant Social Media Intermediary:

  • Appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules. Such a person should be a resident in India.
  • Appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Such a person shall be a resident in India.
  • Appoint a Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under Grievance Redressal Mechanism. Such a person shall be a resident in India.
  • Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.
  • Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years. An intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator. Significant social media intermediary shall have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.
  • Voluntary User Verification Mechanism: Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with demonstrable and visible marks of verification.
  • Giving Users An Opportunity to Be Heard: In cases where significant social media intermediaries remove or disable access to any information on their own accord, then a prior intimation for the same shall be communicated to the user who has shared that information with a notice explaining the grounds and reasons for such action. Users must be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.
  • Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through an authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.

The Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media, read a government statement.

Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, these Rules empower the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to implement Part-III of the Rules which prescribe the following:

The Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media, read a government statement.

Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, these Rules empower the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to implement Part-III of the Rules which prescribe the following:

  1) Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers

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

  3) Level-III: Oversight mechanism

  • Self-regulation by the Publisher: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.
  • Self-Regulatory Body: There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
  • Oversight Mechanism: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.
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