News content on OTT platforms must adhere to code of ethics under new IT rules

The new set of rules will have wide-ranging implications for social media, digital news and OTT platforms

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 25, 2021 2:30 PM
OTT

The government is all set to officially unveil the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which have wide-ranging implications for social media, digital news and OTT platforms.
Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad are expected to address a press conference at 2 pm on the guidelines.
The rules define digital media as digitised content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks and for the purposes of these rules includes content received, stored or transmitted by (i) an intermediary; or and (ii) a publisher of news and current affairs content or online curated content.

Further, an intermediary includes websites, apps and portals of social media networks, media sharing websites, blogs, online discussion forums and other such functionally similar intermediaries.

Guidelines for intermediaries

An intermediary, including social media intermediary and a significant social media intermediary, will have to prominently publish on its website or application or both, as the case may be, the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its computer resource by any person.

The rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement of the intermediary shall inform the user of computer resource not to host unlawful content.

An intermediary shall periodically inform its users, at least once every year, that in case of non-compliance with rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement for access or usage of the computer resource of such intermediary, it has the right to terminate the access or usage rights of the users to the computer resource immediately or remove non-compliant information or both, as the case may be.

An intermediary, upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court of competent jurisdiction or on being notified by the appropriate Government or its agency under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 79 of the Act, shall not host, store or publish any information prohibited by any law in relation to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.

The intermediary shall, expeditiously but not later than 72 hours of the receipt of a lawful order, provide information under its control or possession, or any assistance to the Government agency who is lawfully authorised for investigative or protective or cybersecurity activities, for the purposes of verification of identity, or for the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution, of offences under any law for the time being in force, or for cybersecurity incidents.

Information collected by an intermediary from a user for registration on the computer resource shall retain his information for a period of one hundred and eighty days after any cancellation or withdrawal of his registration, as the case may be.

The intermediary will report cybersecurity incidents and share related information with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team following the policies and procedures as prescribed in the Information Technology (The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team and Manner of Performing Functions and Duties) Rules, 2013.

An intermediary will have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and rules made thereunder and shall be liable for any proceedings relating to any relevant third-party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by that intermediary where he fails to ensure that such intermediary observes due diligence while discharging its duties under the Act and rules made thereunder.

The intermediary will also have to appoint a nodal person of contact for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure compliance to their orders or requisitions made in accordance with the provisions of law or rules made thereunder. Further, they have to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, who shall be responsible for the functions referred to in clause (n) of sub-rule (1) of rule 4.

A significant social media intermediary providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction or an order passed under Section 69 of the Act by the Competent Authority as per the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for the interception, monitoring and decryption of information) Rules, 2009, which shall be supported with a copy of such information in electronic form.

A significant social media intermediary shall endeavour to deploy technology-based measures, including automated tools or other mechanisms to proactively identify information that depicts any act or simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct, whether explicit or implicit or any information which is exactly identical in content to information that has previously been removed or access to which has been disabled on the computer resource of such intermediary under clause (d) of sub-rule (1) of rule 4.

Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital/online media

The rules made under this Part shall apply to (a) publishers of news and current affairs content; (b) intermediaries which primarily enable the transmission of news and current affairs content; (c) publishers of online curated content; and (d) intermediaries which primarily enable the transmission of online curated content.

These rules will apply to a video streaming platform if it has a dedicated tab labelled ‘Latest News’ on which it aggregates news and current affairs content. The rules made under this Part shall apply to X in relation to the content on the ‘Latest News’ tab only.

Further, the rules made under this Part shall apply to applicable entities, where (a) such entity operates in the territory of India; (b) such entity conducts the systematic business activity of making its content available in India, which is targeted at Indian users.

The rules made under the Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital/online media shall come into operation after three months from the date of publication of these rules.

For ensuring observance and adherence to the Code of Ethics by the applicable entity, and for addressing the grievances made under this Part, there shall be a three-tier structure as under (a) Level I - Self-regulation by the applicable entity; (b) Level II — Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities and (c) Level III - Oversight mechanism by the Central Government.

The Ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) will establish an online Grievance Portal, as the central repository for receiving and processing all grievances from the public in respect of the Code of Ethics, within three months of the commencement of the rules.

Any person having a grievance regarding content published by an applicable entity in relation to the Code of Ethics may register its grievance on the Grievance Portal. The Portal shall generate and issue an acknowledgement of the grievance a the benefit of the complainant within 24 hours of its registration, and electronically direct the grievance to the applicable entity for addressing the grievance, and also refer such grievance to the Ministry and the self-regulating body for information and record.

The applicable entity shall address the grievance and inform the complainant of its decision within 15 days of the registration of the grievance, and also forward the decision on the Grievance Portal.

If the decision of the applicable entity is not communicated to the complainant within the stipulated 15 days, the grievance shall be escalated to the level of the self-regulating body of which such entity is a member.

Where the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the applicable entity, it may prefer to appeal on the Grievance portal to the self-regulating body of which such entity is a member within 15 days of receiving such decision.

The self-regulating body shall address the grievance referred to in clause (b) and (c) above, and convey its decision in the form of guidance or advisory to the applicable entity, and inform the complainant of such decision within a period of 15 days, and every such decision shall also be recorded on the Grievance Portal by the self-regulating body.

Where the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the self-regulating body, it may, within 15 days of such decision, prefer an appeal on the Grievance Portal to the Oversight Mechanism referred to in Rule 12 for resolution.

The applicable entity shall be Level I of the self-regulating mechanism will have to:

(a) establish a grievance redressal mechanism, and shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India, who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it.

(b) display the contact details related to its grievance redressal mechanism, the name and contact details of its Grievance Redressal Officer, prominently at the Grievance Portal and an appropriate place on its website or interface, as the case may be.

(c) ensure that the Grievance Redressal Officer takes a decision on every grievance registered in respect of such entity with the Grievance Portal within 15 days of the receipt of such grievance, and communicates the same to the complainant within the stipulated time, and records the decision on the Grievance Portal. Provided that where a grievance relating to the Code of Ethics is received by such entity other than through the Grievance Portal, the Grievance Redressal Officer shall register such grievance on the Grievance Portal within 48 hours of such receipt. Provided further that where any entity has appointed a Grievance Officer under Part II of these rules, such person may be the Grievance Redressal Officer of such entity for the purposes of this Part.

(d) be a member of a self-regulating body as referred to in Rule 11 and abide by its terms and conditions.

In Level II of self-regulation, there shall be a self-regulatory body of applicable entities, being an independent body constituted by such entities or their association. Provided that there may be more than one self-regulating body constituted by such entities or their associations.

The self-regulatory body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, who shall be appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry, and have other members, not exceeding six, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.

The self-regulating body shall, after its constitution under sub-rule (1), inform the Ministry and register itself with the Grievance Portal.

 The self-regulating body shall perform the following functions, namely:

(a) Oversee and ensure the alignment and adherence by the applicable entities to the Code of Ethics:
(b) Provide guidance to such entities on various aspects of the Code of Ethics;
(c) Address grievances that have not been resolved by such entities within the stipulated period of 15 days;
(d) Hear appeals filed by the complainant against the decision of such entities:;
(e) Issue such guidances or advisories to such entities as specified in sub-rule (5) for ensuring compliance to the Code of Ethics, and place every such guidance or advisory on the Grievance Portal within 24 hours. Provided that where an applicable entity resolves a grievance where such grievance has been taken up by the self-regulating body as per clause (c) of sub-rule (4), such self-regulating body shall not take any action in relation to such grievance unless an appeal
is filed as per clause (d) of sub-rule (4) with such a self-regulating body.

Under the oversight mechanism, the Ministry shall designate, by notification in the Official Gazette, an officer of the Ministry not below the rank of a Joint Secretary, as the “Authorised Officer”, who shall be authorised by it for the purpose of issuing direction for blocking for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource under sub-section (1) of section 69A of the Act. 13.

It will also constitute an Inter-Departmental Committee, called the Committee, consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team and such other Ministries and Organizations, including domain experts, that it may decide to include in the Committee.

All content transmitted/published/exhibited by an applicable entity shall be classified, based on the nature and type of content, into the following rating categories:
(a) Online curated content which is suitable for children, as well as people of all ages, shall be classified as “U” rating;
(b) Online curated content which is suitable for persons aged 7 years and above, and can be viewed by a person under the age of 7 years with parental guidance, shall be classified as “U/A 7+” rating:
(c) Online curated content which is suitable for persons aged 13 years and above, and can be viewed by a person under the age of 13 years with parental guidance, shall be classified as “U/A 13+” rating;
(d) Online curated content which is suitable for persons aged 16 years and above, and can be viewed by a person under the age of 16 years with parental guidance, shall be classified as “U/A 16+” rating; and
(e) Online curated content which is restricted to adults shall be classified as “A” rating.

The Content may be classified on the basis of : (i) Themes and messages; (ii) Violence; (iii) Nudity; (iv) Sex; (v) Language; (v) Drug and substance abuse; and (vi) Horror.

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