The Central Government has extended the TV and print media guidelines to digital news organisations and OTT platforms. Social media platforms mandated to set up grievance redressal system. While speaking on the recent regulations on social media and OTT platforms, eminent corporate lawyer Gautam Khaitan said that it was essential for providing a safe space and content to the people, especially the young generation. “These are tough rules and they are expected to bring positive results in the society,” he said.
Through the recent notification issued by the Centre, it formulates new guidelines to regulate the content on the internet. The notification said that the companies must be held accountable for online “misuse and abuse.” On the regulation of the OTT platforms, Gautam Khaitan said that the self-classification mandated by the “notification was a much-needed step that the government took. Now, they will have to classify the content on their websites and apps into five categories.”
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 asked the OTT platforms to classify the content into five age-based categories — U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Moreover, it also directed them to carry through parental locks for U/A 13+ category content and age verification for A category content for users.
“For online news media and video streaming platforms, it asked to set up three-tier grievance redressal mechanism which is going to be self-regulatory. Vide this regulation, a self-regulatory body will be constituted under a retired High Court or Supreme Court of India’s judge along with a Centre’s inter-ministerial committee to examine complaints and for acting against violations,” Gautam Khaitan explained.
Moreover, the new rules also empower the I&B Ministry to block the content from public access in case of an emergency. In addition to this, Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000 already allows the government to block public access to the content in certain situations, as prescribed under the act. The government said that the step was taken under the direction of several courts in India which asked the Centre to regulate online content. Further, various sections of society found it imperative to resolve the concerns arising relating to content floating on OTT and social media platforms.
“Social Media intermediaries will also need to enable identification of the first originator of the information for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states. Public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with sex offense. However, these platforms will not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information of the first originator”.
“Internet is penetrating in India at a rapid speed. With millions of users in India that include persons of every age, it is crucial to provide them a safe space to exchange information and have access to healthy content. These tough notifications are made in the right direction and I welcome it.”
With over three decades of experience in corporate law, Gautam Khaitan is a managing partner of a Delhi-based global law firm OP Khaitan & Co.