A lot of offensive content is circulated over social media which attacks the dignity of the users, particularly women. The government is about to release a new set of guidelines to regulate digital content which requires social media sites to disclose the “originator of content”.
Under the new rules, the government can also block the unlawful content. The social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc. will have to disclose who started the content or the post that is detrimental to the country’s sovereignty, integrity, public order, national security or sexually explicit.
The Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while making this announcement said, “Who began the mischief? You have to say.”
The IT Minister also added that the social media sites will also have a provision for asking for voluntary verification of users. The sites will have to appoint India-based compliance officers. They will be required to inform the users if they are removing the content and also give reasons for the same and hear them out.
The rules, which make traceability of the originator of messages a must on prominent social media sites, goes against end-to-end encryption on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal.
He also said that this would not count as a violation of privacy of the encryption rule as the company is not being asked to give the content of the platform. It is simply being asked to provide the information of the originator.
The social media will be given 3 months’ time to establish a mechanism before the rules take effect. As per the rules, social media platform and digital streaming must have a grievance redressal system. It is very important for the users to have a forum where they can raise complaints about the misuse of social media. A grievance officer will also be required to register complaints within 24 hours and address them within 15 days.
The Union IT Minister also said that if there are complaints against the dignity of users especially women, they must be removed within 24 hours of the complaint. This rule has been designed to respect the dignity of women.
A nodal contact person must be appointed by the social media sites who is based in India for 24X7 co-ordination with law enforcement agencies. The sites must also have a resident grievance officer and monthly compliance reports must also be prepared.
The Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said that OTT and digital news media will also have to disclose their details and also have a grievance redressal system. The OTT platforms will have to have a self regulating body headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or a very eminent person in this category.
The content on OTT platforms will follow the appropriate age rules and categorise them accordingly. Parents should able to block content that is inappropriate for children, for which OTT will have to design something similar to “parental lock”.
The new set of guidelines also states that there is a provision of imprisonment of 5 years for the originator of offensive content. The new guidelines are very likely to be enforced within the next 3 months.
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