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India's new rules for social media, OTT platforms: 7 important things to know

India on Thursday rolled out new regulations for social media companies and digital streaming websites to make them more accountable for the online content shared on their platforms, giving the government more power to police it. India on Thursday rolled out new regulations for social media companies and digital streaming websites to make them more accountable for the online content shared on their platforms, giving the government more power to police it.
India on Thursday rolled out new regulations for social media companies and digital streaming websites to make them more accountable for the online content shared on their platforms, giving the government more power to police it. (AP)

The new rules force the OTT platform to make their content more secure for children by labelling their content as per the new guidelines and providing parental lock mechanisms.

The Indian government on Thursday announced new rules to regulate the social media platforms, over-the-top (OTT) service providers and digital content providers in India.

The new rules are called ‘Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code’ and they not only force the big tech companies to set up a faster and more efficient grievance redressal mechanism but they also tighten the grip of various regulatory bodies over these platforms.

In addition to this, they also force the OTT platform to make their content more secure for children by labelling their content as per the new guidelines and providing parental lock mechanisms.

So, here are seven things you should know about the new guidelines announced by the government:

1. As per the new rules OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Zee5 will have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories - U (Universal), U/A 7 years, U/A 13 years, U/A 16 years, and A (Adult).

2. OTT platforms will also have to provide a mechanism of parental lock in their services.

3. As a part of the new rules, digital media will have to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.

“Print media has Press Council & they follow its ethics code but digital media portals have nothing to follow but now we have changed this as all media platforms must have same justice system & they need to follow the Ethics Code as laid down by the Press Council,” Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said today.

4. Publishers in India will have to establish a three-level grievance redressal mechanism. In such a system, the first level would be self-regulation by the publishers, while the second level would be self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers. The third level, on the other hand, would be an oversight mechanism.

5. The new also require the companies to appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India who will be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer will make the decision on every grievance received by the company within 15 days.

6. Apart from this, the new rules say that there may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers that will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person, and not have more than six members. 

7. Facebook welcomed the new rules saying that they would help in addressing the Internet's toughest challenges.

“We have always been clear as a company that we welcome regulations that set guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges on the Internet. Facebook is committed to people’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on our platforms. The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study the new rules that were just published,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to HT Tech. 

"We acknowledge and appreciate the recognition from the Minister on the positive contributions of social media to the country. Facebook is an ally for India and the agenda of user safety and security is a critical one for our platforms. We will continue to work to ensure that our platforms play an enabling role in fuelling the exciting digital transformation of India,” the spokesperson added.

Twitter, on the other, has declined to comment on the matter.

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