India gets a new policy for Social Media and OTT platforms

The Indian Government on Thursday announced a new policy for Social media and OTT platforms for intermediaries in “soft touch oversight” rules, stating these were needed to withheld social media and other companies liable for “misuse and abuse”. These will require Big Tech platforms to set up more robust complaint redressal mechanisms and appoint officials to coordinate with law enforcement in India.

The new policy for social media and OTT platforms are drafted as follows

  • The intermediaries, including social media delegates, will have to establish a complaint redressal mechanism for settling complaints received from users or victims. They will have to designate a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the officer’s name and contact details. The grievance officer needs to acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.


  • Intermediaries will have to eliminate or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of content that reveals the private areas of individuals, show such people in full or partial nudity or sexual act or is like impersonation including morphed pictures, among others. Such a complaint can be filed both by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.


  • The government is authorised to notify the user base threshold to distinguish between social media delegates and significant social media intermediaries. The influential social media intermediaries will have to follow further due diligence.


  • The significant social media delegates will have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer responsible for assuring compliance with the Act and rules. Such a person should be a resident of India.


  • They will also have to designate a Nodal Contact Person for coordination with law enforcement agencies and a Resident Grievance Officer. Both of them should be a resident of India.


  • The vital social media intermediaries, providing services primarily like messaging, will have to facilitate identification of the first originator of the information required for blocking, detection, prosecution, investigation, or punishment in an offense related to integrity and sovereignty of India, the security of the State, friendly relationships with foreign states, or public order or of provocation to an offense related to the above or related with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with jailing for a term of not less than five years.


  • If the mediators remove or disable access to any information on their understanding, then a prior hint for the same will have to be communicated to the user who has shared the information, with a notice telling the grounds and reasons for such action. Users must also be provided with enough and reasonable chance to dispute the intermediary’s action.


  • The intermediaries, upon receiving an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government or its agencies through an authorized officer, should not host or distribute any information which is restricted under any law concerning the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, among others


  • The OTT platforms, called the administrators of online curated content in the rules, will have to self-classify the content into five categories depending on age — U for Universal, U/A for 7+, U/A 13+, U/A for 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms will be required to have parental locks for content tagged as U/A 13+ or higher and certain age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.


  • Digital media news publishers will be required to follow the Press Council of India’s rules and the Programme Code mentioned under Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.


  • OTT platforms will have a three-level complaint redressal system under the laws with different levels of self-regulation.

Only time will tell what this new policy to monitor the social media and OTT platforms make a difference in such a large user base as India