Explained: What are the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021

Government of India notified about the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 at a press Conference on February 25, 2021. Know all about the rules here.
Created On: Mar 2, 2021 16:00 IST
Modified On: Mar 2, 2021 18:58 IST
New IT Rules 2021
New IT Rules 2021

Why in News?

The government has recently announced the new code of ethics under new IT Rules 2021 for social media platforms and OTT platforms. Take a look at the details below. 

What is the Notification released?

In February 2021, the Government notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. Can this hamper freedom of speech? Get to know below. 

  1. Basically, these rules require the big Social Media Giants to take down the unlawful content within a specific time frame of being served either a court order or a notice by a government agency. 
  2. Social media platforms can work in India as per the Government, but they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India. 
  3. The rules empower the ordinary users of social media by embodying a mechanism for grievance redressal 
  4. Rules about digital media and OTT focus more on in house and self-regulation 
  5. The framework that has been proposed is very progressive

About Social Media in India

  1. Digital media has given a voice to the common man. It has empowered Indians with technology 
  2. The users for respective social media platforms are listed below through which the people can get an idea about the power the social media platforms provide them with.
  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

The requirement of Rules for Social Media:

  1. Some very disturbing developments have been observed on social media platforms. The spread of fake news has compelled media platforms to create fact check mechanisms.
  2. Many women are blackmailed through obnoxious content related to them threatening their dignity. 
  3. Misuse of social media to settle corporate rivalries has increased its unethical use 
  4. Usage of abusive language and defamatory content or hurting religious sentiments of people has caused the Government to tighten the rules. 
  5. There is no such quick complaint redressal mechanism for ordinary social media users.

The New IT Rules:

  1. As per the IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, “Social media is welcome to do business in India… they have got good business. They have got a good number of users and also empowered ordinary Indians. But users must also be given a proper forum for the resolution of their grievances in a time-bound manner against abuse and misuse of social media.”
  2. As per the Government, the rules will come into effect the day they are notified for most applicable entities, 
  3. An extra three-month window is provided for ‘significant social media intermediaries’, which are a separate category of companies. They have a greater compliance burden.
  4. The significant social media intermediary (those who provide services primarily like messaging like WhatsApp) need to enable the identification of the “first originator” of the information that has been transferred using their platform. This move would help track fake news creators. 
  5. As stated in the Government notification, “Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily like 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.”
  6. The social media company would need to hire three employees, who would be residents of India to deal with the grievances of the users. 
  7. Among these would be a Chief Compliance Officer, who would ensure compliance with rules. It would be followed by a nodal person of contact for coordination with law enforcement agencies.
  8. The last would be the resident grievance officer who would take care of all functions together. 
  9. Also, the Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards concerning Digital/Online Media has been introduced this time. 
  10. The rules also hold valid for various platforms ranging from online news and digital media entities to OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  11. The Publishers would need to observe “Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act”

Grievance Redressal System under the Act:

Level 1 would be self-regulation by an applicable entity, which needs to appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India.

The second level would be self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities 

The final stage will be an oversight mechanism by the central government

On the level of the Central Government, an inter-departmental government committee under the I&B ministry would be hearing grievances arising out of the decision of the self-regulating body. 

 The Act also regulates the OTT Platforms by asking them to follow the law of the land they are broadcasting in. They also need to set up a mandatory grievance redressal system like digital media. 

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