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Govt comes up with stricter norms for social media, OTT

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The Union Government on Thursday came up with new stringent guidelines for social media platforms along with code of ethics for over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media.

Addressing the media, the Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that social media platforms will be classified under two categories – social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries – with the latter being subject to greater obligations.

The government will soon notify a list of significant social media intermediaries soon, the minister said, adding that platforms with a “significant” number of users will be classified as significant social media intermediaries. A benchmark number would be set for the classification, he said.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 mandate that the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries must establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.

Intermediaries will have to appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt, said an official statement.

As per the new norms “an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.”

Further, significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the originator of the information that is required only offences 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 offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse.

The norm would be applicable to offences under which an offender would be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.

Intermediary shall not be required to disclose the contents of any message or any other information to the first originator, said the statement.

Further, the significant platforms will have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Contact Person, a Resident Grievance Officer.

The platforms would also have to 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 by the significant social media intermediary.

In cases where significant social media intermediaries remove or disable access to any information on their own accord, then a prior intimation for the same shall be communicated to the user who has shared that information with a notice explaining the grounds and reasons for such action.

Users must be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary, as per the new norms.

The rules will come in effect from the date of their publication in the gazette, except for the additional due diligence for significant social media intermediaries, which shall come in effect 3 months after publication of these Rules.

Further, on the online news, OTT platforms and digital media platforms, the government has set up three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been under the rules with different levels of self-regulation. The levels are self-regulation by the publishers, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers, oversight mechanism self-classification of content.

A per the Code of Ethics, the publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it.

The officer shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.

There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register 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 be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

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Mainstream journalists falling into social media trap: Andhra govt

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The Andhra Pradesh government’s national media and inter-state affairs advisor, Devulapalli Amar, on Saturday said the mainstream media houses are falling into the trap of social media, resulting in inadvertently spreading false news leading to communal tension in the state.

“These incidents (alleged temple attacks & media reports) have clearly indicated that mainstream media is falling into the trap of social media and inadvertently spreading false news leading to communal tension in the State,” said Amar.

He requested journalists to observe restraint and extreme caution to avoid becoming tools in the hands of vested interests.

“In this context, exercising restraint is extremely important in the current scenario. When the atmosphere is charged and vitiated, rumour mongers will work overtime and rumours will fly thick and fast,” Amar observed.

Amar, a veteran Telugu journalist, said a series of suspicious temple vandalism cases occurred in the southern state in recent months.

He highlighted that almost all these attacks occurred during night time.

“The state government sees a larger conspiracy behind these orchestrated incidents to defame it and stoke religious sentiments in the communally peaceful state,” said Amar.

He said at least five of these alleged desecrations need scrutiny and gave the reasons for a relook.

According to Amar, the alleged desecration of Saraswati temple and idol at Etcherla in Srikakulam and Narsaraopeta in Guntur respectively, happened more than two years ago, hinting that they occurred even before the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) came to power.

“However, unscrupulous elements posted these incidents on social media as if they were fresh incidents. Media, unfortunately, without going into the facts, fell into the trap of social media and rumour mongers,” pointed out the advisor.

Referring to Kalabhairava temple desecration case in Allagadda in Kurnool on September 19, he said a person with the superstitious belief that keeping a part of the idol in his house will enable his wife to conceive had committed the crime. He was later arrested.

Amar referred to the recent Varaha Narasimha Swamy temple arch idols desecration allegations in Prakasam district’s Singarayakonda, and clarified that the arch was constructed in 1999, 2 km away from the actual temple.

“Due to salty weather conditions and wear and tear, the idols on the arch were repaired twice. Two months ago, the hands of an idol became partly loose and the donors were informed about it and they promised to get the work done during Brahmotsavams this year. However, six persons including representatives of a few media houses without verifying the facts helped in spreading false news,” he said.

Among the six, five were journalists belonging to prominent Telugu media houses such as ABN Andhra Jyothi, NTV and HMTV and a couple of local newspapers, all of whom were arrested and locked up for a day for allegedly propagating fake news.

Finally, Amar referred to the Golugonda incident in Visakhapatnam rural, which he said was an old incident where an idol was damaged accidentally.

“Some persons had spread the rumour that the incident happened on January 5. In all these cases, police have managed to identify the culprits of rumour mongering and spreading rumours on social media,” he said.

Amar said the state government has appointed a 16-member Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by additional director general of police G. V. G. Ashok Kumar to probe the cases and arrest the culprits.

He appealed to the media houses not to publish allegations without verifying the facts.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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