On the dawn of 25/02/2021, the Ministry of Electronics and IT, India released new reforms regarding the streaming services of OTT (Over the Top) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.
Studies show that there was a massive influx of audience to these platforms in just the span of 1 year. In 2019, 32 million people subscribers but the pandemic bolstered this number and the subscribers increased to 62 million in 2020.
Before the regulations, the platforms were providing content to the audience at their will and there were no restrictions on what they can display to their customers. The people enjoyed a plethora of content in all genres, and creators could post anything at their discretion.
However, their freedom to watch different dramas and shows was soon to be faced with an implication by the government of India. Over the past year, the government had been greatly stressed due to the streaming of shows, both Indian and Foreign which display obscenity, hurt cultural sentiments, defamation, and religious sentiments. To put an end to this unhinged sovereignty, the government held a meeting and finally decided to streamline the services through the (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code).
What Rules Were Introduced Through This Notification?
- All streaming and social media intermediaries are to set up a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism along with measures that are to be observed with due diligence. These rules include-
- The platforms have to display their privacy policies, regulations, and user agreement on their websites to make their user aware.
- They have to create privacy policies which disallow users, host, partners to display, modify, transmit, store or update any information that –
2. The intermediary shall provide information of an order within 72 hours, provide information under its control or possession, or assistance to the Government agency which is lawfully authorized for investigative or protective or cybersecurity activities, for the purposes of verification of identity.
3. Publishing monthly reports regarding compliance with rules and the actions taken against the complaints received thereupon.
4. A social media intermediary should have a physical residence with an address in India.
5. There are three levels which include-
- Level 1 – Appointing a grievance officer who will take care of the complaints and make sure people enjoy services that do not promote anything against the rules.
- Level 2- A self-regulating body that oversees the abidance to ethic code, addresses complaints and resolves them within a stipulated period of 15 days.
- Level 3- The Ministry Of Electronics And Information Technology shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies including Code of Practices for such bodies, establishing an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances, issuing appropriate guidance and advisories to publishers, etc.
6. Full disclosure of all the complaints and grievances that are reported and addressed is needed by these platforms without any objection.
In case the intermediary fails to comply with the rules, the provision of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the act will not be applicable to the intermediary and the platform will be punished under the Provision Of The Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The Impact Of These Notifications On Social Media And Streaming Platforms
Before the declaration of Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code, the OTT platforms were never directly responsible for whatever content was being published or posted on their platform.
The government of India wanted to change this, for which it meticulously observed the same kind of provisions already prevailing in countries like Singapore, Australia, and the EU and concocted this unique system. Their three-tier grievance redressal system is a combination of consideration for the safety of both the country and the public and the bid to make platforms more regulated with suitable content.
The impact that the government seeks to make through the new rules involves curtailing offensive and problematic content while enlightening people to make better choices regarding the type of content that they consume. This further aims to maintain balance and a friendly collaboration of the government rules and the OTT platforms.