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Your 6-Point Guide to New IT Rules as Govt Tightens grip on Social Media, OTT Content

The new rules include mechanisms to make social media companies share details on the originators of messages, while OTT content will be governed by a three-level grievance redressal mechanism.

    FEBRUARY 26, 2021; The Centre on Thursday released new guidelines for regulating social media and OTT streaming platforms to curb what it described as misuse of content, and make Big Tech firms like Facebook and Twitter more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of content.

Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar said it is very important to regulate the actions of social media agencies in India, and for this purpose, the government has called for the establishment of a speedy grievance redressal mechanism.

The new rules include mechanisms to make social media companies share details on the originators of messages. Social media firms should be “more responsible and accountable,” Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters while outlining the rules.

Here are the key highlights of the new rules:

1. Significant social media platforms, i.e. platforms with a user base over a certain threshold will need to enable identification of the first originator of the information for publishing offensive content that can invite imprisonment of more than five years.

2. Significant social media platforms will have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer within three months of the rules being published in a gazette to coordinate with law enforcement agencies. They will also need to publish a monthly compliance report with details of complaints received and action taken.

3. Significant social media platforms will have to take down offensive content within 36 hours of receipt of a complaint. They will also need to assist in probes or other cybersecurity-related incidents within 72 hours of receiving a request. Others shall acknowledge within the set timeframe hours and resolve the issue within 15 days

4. OTT platforms now have to self-classify content into five age-based categories – U, 7+, 13+, 16+, and A which need to be displayed. Parental locks and age verification mechanisms to be applied as per the content rating.

5. OTT content will be governed by a three-level grievance redressal mechanism – (1) self-regulation by platform, (2) self-regulatory body and (3) oversight mechanism formulated by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

6. News on OTT platforms will have to observe the guidelines set by Press Council of India and the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act to bring it in line with print and TV news.

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