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How the new government guidelines work-India News, Firstpost

It would be in the best interest of OTT platforms and online information platforms and their users to have an up-to-date and robust legal mechanism for redressing their grievances.

The government, through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technologies (MEITY), notified and published on Thursday the 2021 rules on information technology (intermediate directives and code of ethics for the media digital).

The size of the audience of social media / digital platform companies in India and the plethora of grievances reported over time forced India to join the League of Nations (including Singapore, Australia and Germany) Seeking to provide effective grievance mechanisms by updating its existing legal framework and actively regulating these social media companies / digital platforms.

PIB India’s official Twitter account argues that the rules empower ordinary users, incorporating a mechanism for redress and speedy resolution of their grievance. Editors of organized online content (read: OTT platforms) and editors of news and current affairs content (read: online news platforms) will now be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The rules apply not only to publishers operating in Indian territory, but also to publishers who carry out a systematic business activity of making their content available in India targeting Indian users.

When deciding to present content, editors walk a thin line and consider whether the content affects the sovereignty and integrity of India, or threatens, endangers or compromises the security of the state, or is detrimental to India’s friendly relations with foreign countries. , or violates the laws in force in India.

All online organized content transmitted / published / exhibited by the publisher must henceforth be classified with either a “U” rating, a “U / A 7+” rating, or a “U / A 13+” rating, or “U / A grade of 16+”, or an “A” grade, depending on its context, theme, tone and impact, target audience and core themes and messages, violence, nudity, sex, language; addiction and horror. Publishers would also be required to implement access control mechanisms, including parental locks for content rated U / A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content rated “A”. .

The online-organized content editor shall prominently display the classification score specific to each content file or program as well as a content descriptor informing the user of the nature of the content and giving advice on the viewer’s description ( if applicable) at the start of each program allowing the user to make an informed decision, before watching the program.

Although not mandatory, publishers of online organized content are expected to make reasonable efforts to provide such disabled access services on their platforms, which will allow them to improve the accessibility of organized content by line.

Editors of news and current affairs content will also be required to adhere to the Journalistic Conduct Standards of the Press Council of India and the Program Code under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act, thus providing a level playing field between traditional and digital media.

A three-tier regulatory framework is to be formed according to the rules where Level I will be self-regulation by the applicable entity, Level II will be self-regulation by a registered body / association of publishers and Level III will be a supervisory mechanism. central government.

At Level I, the relevant publisher will need to establish a grievance mechanism and appoint a Grievance Officer (GO) based in India; post the name and contact details of their GO and recourse mechanism prominently on their website or platform; become a member of a self-regulatory body (level II); and ensure that the GO takes a decision within 15 days of receiving any complaint and communicates it.

At level II, independent bodies made up of the publishers concerned or their associations should be set up. Each self-regulatory body is headed either by a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge, or by an independent eminent person in the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, children’s rights, human rights and any other relevant field, as well as no more than 6 other expert members in the fields indicated. The Level II self-regulatory body will be responsible for overseeing the alignment and compliance by editors with the Code of Ethics and hearing appeals filed by the complainant against the decision of the Editor’s GO at Level I.

At level III, the I&B Department, under the oversight mechanism, will appoint an officer (not below the rank of a joint secretary), as an authorized officer, who will be authorized to issue instructions to block public access to any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted on any computer resource. The authorized officer will chair an inter-ministerial committee made up of representatives of the Ministry of I & B, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, India’s Computer Emergency Response Team and other ministries and organizations, including experts from the domain, which might be deemed appropriate.

As a process, anyone aggrieved by the content can register their grievance with the Level I GO, who must generate and issue an acknowledgment of the grievance within 24 hours of its registration, process the grievance, and notify the grievor of their grievance. decision within 24 hours. 15 days. If the GO does not or if the grievor is not satisfied with the GO’s decision, the grievance will be escalated, or an appeal may be preferred to the Level II self-regulatory body, which is required to resolve this. grievance within 15 days. The appeal of the decision of the level II body can be filed with the Interministerial Committee within 15 days of this decision.

Prior users were exposed to unnecessary difficulties when seeking to process their complaints, and OTT platforms (as well as their content creators) had to endure arbitrary legal proceedings, often being drawn into criminal proceedings in cities far from them. It appears that these rules are aimed at providing users as well as OTT platforms / online information portals in India with an industry-specific, dedicated and time-bound grievance system.

Overall, it would be in the best interest of OTT platforms and online information platforms and their users to have an up-to-date and robust legal mechanism for redressing their grievances. As in all successful ecosystems, all stakeholders will have to go the extra mile and invest the necessary resources and efforts to put in place the mechanisms envisioned by the rules. Yes, there will be challenges, but stakeholders should not lose sight of the end goal – a secure and successful future for the industry and its users.

The author is a partner of Parinam Law Associates and specializes in media and entertainment law.