Code of ethics, dilution of secure harbour prescribed in draft code to manage social media: Report

The Indian government has prepared draft regulations to regulate social media, streaming and OTT platforms and news websites. The rules will include a code of ethics and require regular compliance reports from companies, NDTV reported. The government is also reportedly trying to water down safe haven protection for intermediaries. The development comes amid an ongoing – seemingly de-escalating – feud between the Indian government and Twitter over the social media company’s refusal to suspend accounts despite Section 69A mandated by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has been.

A Chief Compliance Officer is reportedly required to respond to complaints from law enforcement agencies around the clock and provide compliance reports on a regular basis. Sources told the publication that there would be a complaint redress portal and mechanism for oversight. This “supervisory mechanism” would be developed by the government and “coordinate compliance with the code of ethics by publishers and self-regulating bodies”. Companies have 36 hours to remove content that has been flagged by a court or other notified body. However, a senior secretary can still take immediate action.

Safe Harbor Dilution: The draft regulations have reportedly proposed “removing or at least severely reducing” the safe haven protection granted to intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act. The proposed rules hold the intermediaries responsible for warning users about what is and is not allowed. It should be noted that social media platforms already have guidelines about what is allowed (and what is not) on their platforms. It is unclear what exactly will change under the draft regulations. A government note reportedly said that the legal framework will promote “freedom with accountability” with a “lightweight framework”.

I&B and IT ministries work together on guidelines

Just the day before, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said in parliament that he and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar would “revise” the guidelines on social media platforms and present them in parliament once they were completed. In a note on the coming regime, he said, “When you become a platform, create community guidelines and use them to judge what is right and what is not, and when those guidelines have no place in India’s rules and constitution , then will not work ”.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Javadekar himself told Parliament that the guidelines for OTT websites were “almost ready”. He said that the topic of OTT platforms is “very important”: “Every day we receive both suggestions and complaints on this topic. Policies and guidelines are almost ready and will be implemented soon. “This was the clearest indication to date of the government’s desire to tighten the regulation of streaming services and to reject the industry’s proposed self-regulatory code.

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