Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have said they welcome many aspects of the new digital media rules issued by the Central government, but hedged a full reaction citing the need to study the fine print of the guidelines. They also reaffirmed their intent of working with the authorities on matters that will ultimately ensure a healthy online environment.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad yesterday announced the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It seeks to regulate digital content and establish a "soft touch progressive institutional mechanism with level-playing field".
Among other things, the rules call for a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news sites and OTT platforms. They require social media giants to appoint India-based compliance officers and the establishment of an oversight mechanism by a panel of representatives from the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home, Information and Broadcasting, Law, IT, and Women and Child Development.
This panel will have suo motu powers to call hearings on complaints of violation of the code of ethics.
Responding to yesterday's development, a Twitter spokesman told Reuters that the company would study the guidelines. "We believe that regulation is beneficial when it safeguards citizen's fundamental rights and reinforces online freedoms," the official said in a statement to Reuters.
Twitter has 1.75 crore users in India, according to Minister Prasad.
Hailing his recognition of social media's contributions to the country, a Facebook representative said the company welcomes "regulations that set guidelines for addressing today's toughest challenges on the internet".
"The details of rules like these matter and we will carefully study (them)… Facebook is an ally for India and the agenda of user safety and security is a critical one for our platforms," said the spokesperson of the company which has 41 crore users in India.
"We will continue to work to ensure that our platforms play an enabling role in fueling the exciting digital transformation of India," the statement continued.
In a statement released today, IT industry body NASSCOM said the new norms should not become cumbersome for digital platforms.
"Strengthening the grievance redress mechanisms, the option of voluntary self-verification of user accounts, and the right to receive an explanatory notification on removal or disablement of access and to seek remedy against the action being taken by the intermediaries should be helpful," it said.
"This will require the right implementation and should not become onerous for the social media platforms."