Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry, Prakash Javadekar announced Government’s guidelines on social media regulation. According to the new guidelines, publishers of news on digital media will be required to observe the Press Council of India’s norms of journalistic conduct, as well as the programme code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act. He further stated that the digital media portals don’t have the right to spread “falsehoods and rumors”. “Press freedom is the spirit of democracy, but let me tell you that all freedom has to be responsible freedom.”
Javadekar said that regulatory mechanisms and codes are present for print and TV news platforms, but not for digital news portals. He said the new guidelines will provide a “level playing field” to all mediums by bringing digital content under regulation. The government also called for a “grievance redressal system” for OTT platforms and digital news media, who will also have to disclose details on “from where they publish, how they publish, how much is their spread.”
In this regard, I&B secretary Amit Khare told the media that digital news portals will have to provide the I&B ministry with “details on their editorial head, ownership, address, and designated grievance officer”. “Currently, the government doesn’t have a complete picture of how many players there are in this sector and who they are,” Khare told the media. “If you log on to their websites, you won’t even find basic information on their office address or editor-in-chief.” The report cited sources as saying that the ministry will “soon release a form that all digital news outlets must fill and submit to the ministry in a month”.
Now questions remain here
- What will happen to freedom of speech?
- Who is going to regulate social media? A global platform?
- How the technical aspect of using a proxy is addressed?
- How will people be held accountable if the regulations are not followed?
- What if the regulatory committee is biased?
- Who’ll make the guidelines/regulations?
- How social media platforms will respond to the regulations? What’s in it for them?
- How much monitoring would be enough?
- What will happen to the privacy of users?
Here is what experts have to say
Vinay Manikam, an IT professional said, “I see chaos and commotion. The reason people love connecting through social media is that it serves as an avenue to let out all the frustration and stress. It is the place where people connect without boundaries. It is where people speak their hearts out without thinking twice. It is where a lot of people get a chance to be themselves or who they wish to be. And restricting/regulating social media might just kill the best part of it.
Vipin Gaur, Newspaper Association of India president said, “Figure Government regulation of any form of media amounts to censorship and abridges our protected 1st amendment rights. The right to free speech also guarantees the right not to hear speech we don’t condone. Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms are privately owned and are fully within their rights to set aside speech they do not support. I use neither because I don’t agree with the barriers, they erect but it is their right to erect them. It would be hypocritical to insist they give up their free speech rights because I don’t like the speech they support. I will simply use other forms of expression. When government takes control of speech in any manner we are doomed as a free society.”
“Social media is not a good thing and it would be much better if everyone recognized its problems, grown-up and just avoided it altogether. It will be a bane to all those with limited intelligence and the sense to see the dangers. The regulation of it would just be another government bureaucracy making a lot of stupid mistakes” said Nitin Patil a property dealer.”
Key takeaways from the briefing
- A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with two levels of self-regulation
- Level I comprise the publisher and level II comprises the self-regulatory body, while the third level is the oversight
- The OTT platforms will need to employ a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and a resident grievance officer under the new social media regulatory mechanism.
- The self-regulatory body would be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court, or by a person of eminence from the relevant field, and can issue advisories to the publisher.
Social media intermediates
- All social media platforms will have two categories of intermediaries.
- The Centre shall notify users number for a significant social media intermediary very soon.
- The intermediaries will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism.
- They will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and ensure disposal in 15 days.
- The intermediary will publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively. Due diligence by intermediaries:
- Nodal contact people will be responsible for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies
- Resident grievance officers shall perform all functions under the grievance redressal mechanism
- All intermediaries shall have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.
Ensuring online safety and dignity of users, especially women users:
Intermediaries have been asked to remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that expose the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in a sexual act, or is in the nature of Impersonation including morphed images, etc.