According to the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, Information Technology has come up with new Rules, 2021. The new rules notified last week, will likely change how the internet functions in the country. Recently the government has announced the new code of ethics under new IT Rules 2021 for social media platforms and OTT platforms. The Rules can be divided broadly into three areas (i) internet and social media intermediaries (ii) digital news and (iii) OTT streaming services.

Rules will have a fundamental impact on how the internet and internet-based companies function in India. Everything, starting from online news, streaming content on platforms like Netflix, and social media companies will now be more tightly regulated. The new guidelines announced by the government are as follows-

#1 Pursue Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India

As a part of the new rules, digital media will have to observe the Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.

“Print media has Press Council & they follow its ethics code but digital media portals have nothing to follow but now we have changed this as all media platforms must have same justice system & they need to follow the Ethics Code as laid down by the Press Council,” Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said today

#2 OTT Platforms to Classify Certification

As per the new rules, OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Zee5 will have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories – U (Universal), U/A 7 years, U/A 13 years, U/A 16 years, and A (Adult).

#3 Parental Lock

OTT platforms will also have to provide a mechanism of parental lock in their services. The parental lock system is very important at this time as it has led to an increase in 

#4 Publishers to have Three Level Redressal

Publishers in India will have to establish a three-level grievance redressal mechanism. In such a system, the first level would be self-regulation by the publishers, while the second level would be self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers. The third level, on the other hand, would be an oversight mechanism.

#5 Social Media Groups to help in Identification

The significant social media intermediary service providers like Whatsapp need to enable the identification of the “first originator” of the information that has been transferred using their platform. This move would help track fake news creators. As stated in the Government notification, “Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily like messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offense related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or of incitement to an offense relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.”

#6 More than one Regulatory Body

Apart from this, the new rules say that there may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers that will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or independent eminent person, and not have more than six members. 

#7 Companies appointing redressal executive

The new rules require the companies to appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India who will be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer will make the decision on every grievance received by the company within 15 days.