View from India: Social media and streaming companies face tougher rules to end fake news


Last week, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ordered digital media and over the top (OTT) platforms to submit details of their regulatory compliance within 15 days.

The information will need to be provided in accordance with the 2021 Information Technology Rules (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Code of Ethics for Digital Media), which were announced in February. This is the first step in this direction since then.

So far, social media intermediaries Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have not been held legally responsible for the content they transmit. They were considered as vectors of information. But we live in a digital world where information is transmitted at lightning speed and can also be misinterpreted and misused.

Concern for the widespread negative propaganda of hate speech and fake news has urged the Indian government to put regulatory measures in place. In doing so, social media platforms can benefit from the Safe Harbor provisions. In short, the new rules aim to make platforms more responsible and accountable for the content they host.

TV media organizations and online print media will be required to provide details on the title, the language in which it is published, website URL, mobile apps and social media accounts.

Publishers of content organized online must display the classification specific to each content or program. Users should be made aware of the nature of the content through a content descriptor and, where appropriate, also offer advice on the viewer description. The program should start with this information. The idea is to allow viewers to make an informed choice before watching the program.

OTT requirements are almost similar to news publishers. The only additional requirement is that OTT actors should include the foreign entities and the country in which they are registered.

Under the new IT rules, OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime and social media companies operating in India will need to exercise additional due diligence. A resident grievance officer should be appointed, along with a compliance officer and a nodal contact. The purpose is to monitor the content of the platform as well as to respond or react to complaints. Compliance should include a three-tier redress framework to address citizens’ concerns. This includes digital news publishers and the self-regulatory bodies they constitute.

Social media platforms with more than 50 lakh (5 million) users in the country are classified as large. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Local Koo. They should post details of the grievance officer on their apps and websites.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar for I&B said rules governing social media and streaming companies have been tightened to end fake news. The I&B ministry said the new rules were announced by the Center to “establish a soft-touch progressive institutional mechanism with a level playing field comprising a code of ethics and a three-tier appeal framework. for news publishers and OTT platforms on digital media. “.

The code of ethics prohibits content affecting the sovereignty and integrity of India. The new guidelines state that content involving nudity and transformed images of women must be removed within 24 hours of filing a complaint.

In reaction to the digital rules, Facebook-owned company WhatsApp raised an objection because it felt it would interfere with the end-to-end encryption the company provided to users. In its response, the Indian government said it respects the “right to privacy” and does not plan to violate this right. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, also reiterated that “none of the measures proposed by India will affect the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any way and for ordinary users, there will be no impact. ”

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) released a statement that the government has claimed it does not plan to violate the ‘right to privacy’ when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message.

Twitter has expressed its thoughts on the new rules. As reported in the media, Twitter is concerned about its employees in India and the threat to free speech. The microblogging platform called on the government to give it three months to comply with the new rules. The Delhi High Court said Twitter must comply with the guidelines. Twitter has been given three weeks to officially declare that it has appointed a resident grievance officer and is compliant with 2021 IT rules.

Google, Facebook and WhatsApp have come forward and agreed to appoint statutory agents. Digital media news platforms would be required to observe the Press Council of India (PCI) standards of journalistic conduct.

Global social media platforms have seen tremendous traction in India and their user presence continues to increase. Government data shows that WhatsApp has nearly 53 crore users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook users, 21 crore Instagram users and 1.75 crore Twitter users in India. (One crore = ten million)

By way of explanation, the way people operate social media platforms cannot change. However, they should be careful with the content they post. If there is a compliance issue, it should be resolved promptly by the Grievance Officer, who resides in India.

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