On 25th February, the Indian government put forth the detailed guidelines for online content for both Over The Top (OTT) and digital media platforms under the ambit of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
Though some schools of thought stated that these rules revoke the freedom of expression and privacy, a country like India finds it imperative to make these digital platforms responsible towards ‘unlawful’ generated content.
The new stricter guidelines for social media and OTT intermediaries make it a mandate for platforms like WhatsApp to aid in recognizing the source or ‘originator’ of illicit or felonious content.
It also ensures setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms by the likes of Facebook, Twitter & YouTube and takes down such content or messages in a given time frame. These platforms will also assist government agencies with the investigation.
The Centre’s stricter guidelines have invited criticism that the government has adopted predatory new rules instead of soft-touch surveillance.
Under this new set of rules, prominent social media intermediaries with a user base exceeding 50 lakhs, are obligated to appoint a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person for coordinating with law enforcement agencies.
In case the court or government asks, social media platforms are required to track the originator of unlawful messages. In case of morphed pictures or posts depicting nudity, the platforms will have to remove them within twenty-four hours of receiving a complaint.
The real challenges lie for companies like Facebook operating private chat platforms like Messenger and WhatsApp, when it comes to tracking down the first originator of messages shared in private chats.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company engages constructively with governments on adopting regulatory frameworks. “So, we fully expect governments rightfully to both scrutinize and adopt regulatory frameworks. Be it Europe with copyright directive or India with information regulation etc, we see it as a natural part of societies figuring out how to govern and adapt themselves in this technology-intensive world,” added Pichai.
On the other hand, complaint mechanisms and related requirements are yet to be put in place by video streaming platforms. Though email Ids for consumer complaints are listed by services like Disney+ ZEE5, MX Player and VOOT, there was no response from these services on being asked for the appointment of grievance redressal officer.
OTT and social media platforms are likely to ask for an extension from the government over the deadline for compliance with the new Information technology rules 2021.