Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulation of social media and ott platforms

For the first time, the union government, under the ambit of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms.

Try answering this

Q.What is Over the Top (OTT) media services? Critically analyse the benefits and challenges offered by the OTT media services in India.

Guidelines Related to Social Media

  • 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.
  • Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that erodes individual privacy and dignity.

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 of 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 the 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.
  • Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information.

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms

This Code of Ethics prescribes the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.

(a) Self-Classification of Content

  • The OTT platforms, called the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories– U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.
  • The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor.

(b) Norms for news

  • 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.

(c) 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 a decision on every grievance received it within 15 days.

(d) 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 to be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

(e) 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.

Back2Basics: Social Media usage in India

  • The Digital India programme has now become a movement that is empowering common Indians with the power of technology.
  • The extensive spread of mobile phones, the Internet etc. has also enabled many social media platforms to expand their footprints in India.
  • Some portals, which publish analysis about social media platforms and which have not been disputed, have reported the following numbers as the user base of major social media platforms in India:
  1. WhatsApp users: 53 Crore
  2. YouTube users: 44.8 Crore
  3. Facebook users: 41 Crore
  4. Instagram users: 21 Crore
  5. Twitter users: 1.75 Crore
  • These social platforms have enabled common Indians to show their creativity, ask questions, be informed and freely share their views, including constructive criticism of the government and its functionaries.
  • The govt acknowledges and respects the right of every Indian to criticize and disagree as an essential element of democracy.
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