The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has recently shared details that need to be provided by digital news websites and OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc, to obey the new Information Technology Rules 2021 announced in February this year.
The new IT rules 2021 came into effect on 26th May and Government has given 15 days time to the social media platforms to provide the needed data.
To this the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) wrote a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, seeking exemption and exclusion of traditional TV news media and its extended digital news platforms from the ambit of IT Rules 2021, stating that it is already “sufficiently regulated” by various statutes, laws, guidelines, codes and regulations.
NBA is one of the largest bodies that represent the private television news & current affairs broadcasters.
What does the New IT rule say?
The new guidelines say that the issues relating to digital media and OTT and other creative programmes on the Internet shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting but the overall architecture shall be under the Information Technology Act, which governs digital platforms.
The Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media.
A three-level grievance redressal mechanism is established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation:
Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;
Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
Level-III: Oversight mechanism.
As per the new rules, the publisher has to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer will make the decision on every grievance received within 15 days. There has to be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers which will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members.
The self-regulatory body has to be registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.
Recently Facebook-owned Whatsapp had challenged the Centre in a plea file before the Delhi High Court questioning the New IT rules. It said that the new rules violate the right to privacy and are unconstitutional.
Replying to the Whatsapp dispute, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday tweeted, Government fully recognises and respects the right to privacy. Ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new Rules. Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to the commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the rules.
The new Rules require the social media companies to set up an India based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer and the nodal officer so that millions of users of social media who have a grievance get a forum for its redressal.
The new IT Rules are only designed to prevent abuse and misuse of social media.
Government welcomes criticism including the right to ask questions. The Rules only empower ordinary users of social media when they become victims of abuse and misuse.
The Government also strongly controverted the claims made by Twitter and have said in a statement that Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. “Lawmaking and policy formulations are the sole prerogatives of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what India’s legal policy framework should be.”
Twitter Inc., a USA based private company, in its communique, says that it seeks “constructive dialogue”, a “collaborative approach” from the government of a sovereign democratic republic to “safeguard interests of the public”. It is time that Twitter disabuses itself of this grandiosity and comply with the laws of India.
The Government also wishes to emphatically assure that representatives of social media companies including Twitter are and will always remain safe in India and there is no threat to their personal safety and security.
The Government have condemned the statement issued by Twitter as totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide its own follies.