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Written By: Parbat Singh 

Edited By: Anubhav Yadav

The Central Government on Thursday announced guidelines to monitor social media and OTT platforms through Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. It is one of the first attempts by Government to control the online hatred and abuse spread through social media and also to censor insensitive and obscene content mostly occupied on OTT platforms. The need for OTT Censorship and Monitoring sparked through the Content show caused by recent web series Tandav and Pataal lok which allegedly hurt religious sentiments.
3-tier mechanisms have been set up to address complaints against OTT Platforms. Level I comprise of publishers and level II comprise of self-regulatory body, while the third level is the oversight mechanism under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Each complaint will have to be addressed within 15 days. If the complaint is not addressed properly, then the complainant can proceed to a self- regulatory body which will be headed by a retired judge of a Supreme Court or of a High Court or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights or other relevant fields. This self-regulatory body will also have censuring powers in case of any improper or incriminating content.
At the third level, an inter-ministerial committee will perform the function and it will largely have the same powers as of self-regulatory body of the OTT platforms.
These guidelines are also framed for social media platforms to deal with issues such as persistent spread of fake news, abusive and trolling contents published on it. Social media Platforms will have to identify the origin of such incriminating or abusive content and also curb sharing insensitive contents and regulating content which threatens sovereignty of India. On receiving a Court order or being notified by the appropriate government, an intermediary will need to remove or disable access to any unlawful information or post as early as possible but in no case later than 36 hours.

Some key points to summarize the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021:
1) Content that threatens national security and affects “the sovereignty and integrity of India” shall be banned.
2) Appointment of a grievance officer by intermediaries who shall register complaints in 24 hours and redressal in 15 days.
3) If due diligence not followed by an intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply.
4) Removal of content in 24 hours in certain cases relating to women.
5) To provide a voluntary user verification mechanism.
6) To disclose the first originator of the mischief.
7) Self-classification of the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
8) 3-tier Regulation Mechanism
Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;
Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
Level-III: Oversight mechanism.

The said Rules have been introduced keeping in mind the vast user base of some social media giants which is as follows:
WhatsApp users: 53 crore
YouTube users: 44.8 crore
Facebook users: 41 crore
Instagram users: 21 crore
Twitter users: 1.75 crore


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