How Centre's New IT Rules Apply To Online News Portals?

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK

25 Feb 2021 12:45 PM GMT

  • How Centres New IT Rules Apply To Online News Portals?

    The Information Technology Rules published by the Central Government today to regulate online content shall also apply to Online News Media Portals.The Rules titled Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, have into force with their notification in the official gazette today. To whom does the Rules apply?Rule 2(o) of the...

    The Information Technology Rules published by the Central Government today to regulate online content shall also apply to Online News Media Portals.

    The Rules titled Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, have into force with their notification in the official gazette today.

    To whom does the Rules apply?

    Rule 2(o) of the Draft Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 defines "News and current affairs content" as follows:

    News and current affairs content includes newly received or noteworthy information, including analysis, especially about recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or cultural nature, available over the internet or computer networks.

    Rule 2(u) provides that a News Publisher shall include online paper, news portal, news aggregator and news agency. However, it shall not include newspapers or replica e-paper of the newspaper.

    'Digital Media' means digitized content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks and for the purposes of these rules includes content received, stored or transmitted by

    (i) an intermediary; or

    (ii) a publisher of news and current affairs content or online curated content.

    Code of Ethics

    The Rules also stipulate a Code of Ethics, to be followed by online news portals and intermediaries that provide dedicated news interface. The Code includes:

    • Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978
    • Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Regulation) Act, 1995
    • Content which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force shall not be published or transmitted.

    [An example of intermediaries that provide dedicated news interface shall be: X is an entertainment aggregator. It has a dedicated tab labelled 'Latest News', on which it aggregates news and current affairs content. The rules made under this Part shall apply to X in relation to the content on the 'Latest News' tab only.]

    Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.

    Notification by significant publishers of news and current affairs content

    The Rules require a "significant publisher" of news and current affairs content, to notify the Broadcast Seva that it is operating in the territory of India, by furnishing the information that may be required by the IT Ministry.

    In case of failure to notify the Ministry, the concerned significant publisher shall be liable to face appropriate legal action under the Information Technology Act, 2000. However, such entity shall not be required to cease its operations or be prevented from transmitting any content on this ground.

    [Significant Publisher means a publisher of news and current affairs content if it: (i) publishes such content as a systematic business activity; (ii) operates in the territory of India; (iii) has 5 lakh or more subscribers or 50 lakh or more followers on the services of any significant social media intermediary.]

    Three-tier Grievance Redressal Framework

    For ensuring adherence to the abovesaid Code of Ethics and for addressing the grievances thereof, the Government has proposed a three-tier structure, viz. appointment of Grievance Redressal Officers by the news portal, establishment of self-regulating bodies and oversight by the Central Government.

    The framework is discussed as under:

    Level I - Self-regulation by the applicable entity

    An digital news entity shall establish appoint an India based Grievance Redressal Officer, for redressal of grievances. He shall act as the nodal point for interaction with the complainant, the self-regulating body and the Ministry.

    The digital news entity shall address the grievance and inform the complainant of its decision within 15 days.

    A person, who is dissatisfied with the response of the Grievance Redressal Officer, can appeal to the self-regulating body formed for the concerned entity. Further appeal can be made to the Central Government.

    Level II — Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the applicable entities

    All applicable entities shall come together to form an independent "Self-Regulatory Body" that shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court, appointed from a panel prepared by the Ministry.

    The Body will further comprise of maximum six members, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.

    This Body shall perform the following functions:

    • Oversee and ensure adherence to the Code of Ethics
    • Provide guidance to such entities on various aspects of the Code of Ethics
    • Address grievances which have not been resolved by such entities within the stipulated period of 15 days
    • Hear appeals filed by the complainant against the decision of such entities
    • Issue advisories to entities for ensuring compliance to the Code of Ethics

    While disposing a grievance or an appeal, the Self-regulatory Body shall have the following powers:

    • Issue warning, censure, admonish or reprimand such entity
    • Require an apology by such entity
    • Require such entity to include a warning card or a disclaimer

    Further, in case the Body is of opinion that there is a need for taking of action in relation to the complaint under Section 69A of the IT Act, refer such complaint to the Oversight Mechanism.

    Level III - Oversight mechanism by the Central Government

    Where the applicable entity fails to comply with the advisories of the self-regulating body, the latter shall refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism within prescribed time.

    The Oversight Mechanism with have the following functions-

    • Publish a charter, including Codes of Practices, for self-regulating bodies
    • Develop the Grievance portal for prompt disposal of the grievances
    • Establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances
    • Refer to the Inter-Departmental Committee grievances arising out of the decision of the self-regulating body or where no decision has been taken by the self-regulating body within the stipulated time period

    Inter-Departmental Committee

    The Inter-Departmental Committee comprising of representatives from various Central Ministries and experts shall hear complaints regarding violation or contravention of the Code of Ethics by the news platforms—

    • arising out of grievances in respect of decisions taken at the Level I or II, including where no such decision is taken within the time specified
    • Suo motu if in the opinion of the Committee such hearing is necessary, for reasons to be recorded in writing
    • Referred to it by the Ministry.

    It shall then make its recommendations to the Ministry as under:

    • Issue warning, censure, admonish or reprimand such entity
    • Require an apology by such entity
    • Require such entity to include a warning card or a disclaimer

    Also Read: Digital/Online Media Brought Under Purview Of Ministry Of Information & Broadcasting

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