IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules in 2021
Ranjana Kushwaha – Research Associate, her interest lies in social dimensions of the digital ecosystem.
Summary- The widespread fake news, misuse of social media, child abuse materials, content regulation in the case of online publishers including OTT platforms and news portals, lack of transparency and accountability from digital platforms, and rights of users of digital media platforms, made it imperative for government to come up with rules 2023.
Transcript- Welcome to another episode of “UnwiringTech.” I’m your host, Ranjana. In a significant development, the Indian government notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules in 2021. These rules have far-reaching implications for social media platforms and over-the-top (OTT) content providers. Let’s dive into the details.
Host: Back in 2018, the Supreme Court of India highlighted the need for guidelines to combat issues such as the prevalence of child pornography and content depicting sexual violence. The widespread fake news, misuse of social media, content regulation in the case of online publishers including OTT platforms and news portals, lack of transparency and accountability from digital platforms, and rights of users of digital media platforms, made government intervention necessary.
Host: In 2020, an Ad-hoc committee of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, conducted a study on the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its impact on children and society. This committee recommended measures to identify the originators of such content. All this set the stage for the government’s intervention and then the government came out with 2021 rules.
Host: It categorised Social Media Intermediaries into two types based on their user base. There are social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. SSMI (say full form as well) are when they cross a certain threshold of user base.
Host: The rules require Intermediaries to follow due diligence. Failure to do so will result in the loss of safe harbour under section 79 of the IT Act, which protects them from legal prosecution for content posted on their platforms. SSMI must appoint: (i) a chief compliance officer for ensuring compliance with the Rules and the Act, (ii) a nodal person for coordination with law enforcement agencies, and (iii) a grievance officer, all of whom should reside in India.
Intermediaries must deploy technology-based measures to identify and promptly remove or disable access to content that exposes individuals’ private areas, depicts nudity, sexual acts, or impersonation.
Host: Rules prescribed the need for additional Due Diligence for Significant Social Media Intermediaries. Significant social media intermediaries providing messaging services must enable the identification of the first originator of information for specific purposes like national security and addressing serious offences.
Host: Removal of Unlawful Information: Intermediaries cannot host or publish information prohibited by law, related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, and more, once notified by the appropriate authorities.
H: The new rules also deal with News Publishers, OTT Platforms and Digital Media: Moving on to the rules for OTT platforms: OTT platforms must self-classify content into age-based categories, strict access of age-inappropriate content by children, and implement an age verification mechanism. All content transmitted or published or exhibited by a publisher of online curated content shall be classified, based on the nature and type of content. Online curated content is divided into five categories. ‘U’ rating, for content which is appropriate for all including children, for person of 7 years and above, 13 years and above, 16 years and above and ‘A’ for content which is restricted to adults.
The Content may be classified based on— i) Themes and messages; ii) Violence; iii) Nudity; iv) Sex; v) Language; vi) Drug and substance abuse; and (vii) Horror
Host: Content must prominently display classification ratings and content descriptors to inform users about the nature of the content.
Rules also establish an oversight mechanism which is formulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to ensure compliance with the rules.
Host: These rules represent a significant step in regulating the digital media landscape in India and ensuring responsible content dissemination. Stay tuned for further updates on this developing story. Thank you for joining us on #UnwiringTech.