Government releases new social media rules: ‘Give originator of mischievous tweet or message’

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued new guidelines for social media companies, Over the Top (OTT) players and digital media. Most significantly the rules for social media companies to give the originator of a message or tweet. For players like WhatsApp, which are end-to-end encrypted, this could mean they will be forced to break encryption in India in order to comply.

The rules also made a distinction between a significant social media intermediary and a regular social media intermediary. The government is yet to define the user size to determine who will constitute as a significant social media intermediary.

The government says it is empowering the users of social media and other intermediaries. It wants companies to have a chief compliance officer for significant social media companies as well. The rules call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report as well.

Track originator of message

The rules also call for tracking of the ‘first originator’ of a message. The government says while it is not interested in the content, they are interested to know who started the ‘mischief’. It wants social media platforms to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message as the case maybe.

This will be required in matters related to security and sovereignty of India, public order, or with regard to rape or any other sexually explicit material.

OTT content platforms

The government has called for a grievance redressal system for OTT platforms and digital portals as well. The government is also asking OTT platforms to self regulate and wants a mechanism for addressing any grievances.

While films have a censor board, OTT platforms will require to self-classify their movies and content based on age. There has to be a mechanism of parental lock and ensuring compliance with the same. Platforms like Netflix already have an option for parental lock.

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