Polity & Governance: February 2021 Current Affairs Current Affairs Notes | EduRev

Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly

Current Affairs : Polity & Governance: February 2021 Current Affairs Current Affairs Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


 
3                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
1. POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1.1. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND 
DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021 
Why in news? 
The Government of India recently notified 
Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 
2021. 
About Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 
Rules, 2021 
• Rules 2021 has been framed by the Central 
Government in exercise of powers under 
section 87 (2) of the Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of 
the earlier Information Technology 
(Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. 
Background 
Following developments culminated in the 
notification of the IT rules, 2021: 
• In December 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) had observed that 
Centre may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos 
and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications. 
• Subsequently, MeitY prepared the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to 
replace the rules notified in 2011 to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms 
accountable under the law. 
• In October 2020, the SC had sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating 
Over-the-top (OTT) by an autonomous body. 
• In November 2020 the Union government brought OTT platforms and news and current affairs content on 
online platforms under the ambit of the I&B ministry. 
• In February 2021 the SC issued a notice to the Central Government seeking creation of a proper board, 
institution or association for managing and monitoring OTT, streaming and media platforms. 
 
Important definitions 
• Digital media means digitized content that can be 
transmitted over the internet or computer networks and 
includes content received, stored, transmitted, edited or 
processed by- 
o an intermediary; or 
o a publisher of news and current affairs content or a 
publisher of online curated content; 
• News and current affairs includes newly received or 
noteworthy content including analysis, especially about 
recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or 
cultural nature, made available over the internet or computer 
networks, and any digital media shall be news and current 
affairs content where the context, substance, purpose, 
import and meaning of such information is in the nature of 
news and current affairs content. 
• Social media intermediary means an intermediary which 
primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or 
more users and allows them to create, upload, share, 
disseminate, modify or access information using its services. 
• Significant social media intermediary (SSMI) means a social 
media intermediary having number of registered users in 
India, above such threshold as notified by the Central 
Government. 
o The threshold for SSMI has been set at 50 lakh (5 
million) registered users.  
• Online curated content means any curated catalogue of 
audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs 
content and made available on demand etc. 
• Publisher of news and current affairs content means an 
online paper, news portal, news aggregator, news agency 
which is functionally similar to publishers of news and current 
affairs content but shall not include newspapers, replica e-
papers of the newspaper and any individual or user who is 
not transmitting content in the course of systematic business, 
professional or commercial activity. 
Page 2


 
3                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
1. POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1.1. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND 
DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021 
Why in news? 
The Government of India recently notified 
Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 
2021. 
About Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 
Rules, 2021 
• Rules 2021 has been framed by the Central 
Government in exercise of powers under 
section 87 (2) of the Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of 
the earlier Information Technology 
(Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. 
Background 
Following developments culminated in the 
notification of the IT rules, 2021: 
• In December 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) had observed that 
Centre may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos 
and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications. 
• Subsequently, MeitY prepared the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to 
replace the rules notified in 2011 to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms 
accountable under the law. 
• In October 2020, the SC had sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating 
Over-the-top (OTT) by an autonomous body. 
• In November 2020 the Union government brought OTT platforms and news and current affairs content on 
online platforms under the ambit of the I&B ministry. 
• In February 2021 the SC issued a notice to the Central Government seeking creation of a proper board, 
institution or association for managing and monitoring OTT, streaming and media platforms. 
 
Important definitions 
• Digital media means digitized content that can be 
transmitted over the internet or computer networks and 
includes content received, stored, transmitted, edited or 
processed by- 
o an intermediary; or 
o a publisher of news and current affairs content or a 
publisher of online curated content; 
• News and current affairs includes newly received or 
noteworthy content including analysis, especially about 
recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or 
cultural nature, made available over the internet or computer 
networks, and any digital media shall be news and current 
affairs content where the context, substance, purpose, 
import and meaning of such information is in the nature of 
news and current affairs content. 
• Social media intermediary means an intermediary which 
primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or 
more users and allows them to create, upload, share, 
disseminate, modify or access information using its services. 
• Significant social media intermediary (SSMI) means a social 
media intermediary having number of registered users in 
India, above such threshold as notified by the Central 
Government. 
o The threshold for SSMI has been set at 50 lakh (5 
million) registered users.  
• Online curated content means any curated catalogue of 
audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs 
content and made available on demand etc. 
• Publisher of news and current affairs content means an 
online paper, news portal, news aggregator, news agency 
which is functionally similar to publishers of news and current 
affairs content but shall not include newspapers, replica e-
papers of the newspaper and any individual or user who is 
not transmitting content in the course of systematic business, 
professional or commercial activity. 
 
4                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
Factors that necessitated formulation of new rules  
• Rapid growth in user base: Due to Digital India programme and extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet 
etc. major social media platforms have huge number of users.  
o Indian OTT market is also set to reach Rs 237.86 billion by FY25, from Rs 42.50 billion in FY19. 
• Failure of self-regulation: Despite having internal mechanisms to tackle illegal and inappropriate content, 
Social media companies have thus far been incompetent to effectively address certain harrowing issues.  
o Also, the self-regulatory mechanism proposed by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) was 
rejected by the I&B Ministry due to issues such as conflict of interest, lack of independent third-party 
monitoring, well-defined Code of Ethics etc. 
• Ensuring safety and dignity of women: Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women 
and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. 
• Persistent spread of fake news and misinformation: Fake news, rumours etc. spread virally through platforms 
like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. There have been instances of targeted misinformation aimed at religious 
minorities and dissenting individuals, with consequences ranging from riots, death threats to actual murders. 
• Threat to democratic institutions and security landscape: Increasing instances of misuse of social media by 
criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies.  
• Need for an appropriate institutional mechanism: There is no law or autonomous body to monitor and 
manage the digital content. Also, there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social 
media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. 
1.1.1. GUIDELINES RELATED TO SOCIAL MEDIA INTERMEDIARIES 
Key provisions 
• Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries: Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by social 
media intermediaries like retention of user information for a period of 180 days, reporting cyber security 
incidents etc.  
o In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them. 
o These safe harbour provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social 
media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their 
platforms. 
• Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and 
share the name and contact details of such officer.  
o Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its 
receipt. 
• Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable 
access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals or is 
in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.  
• Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries i.e., social media intermediaries and significant social media 
intermediaries (SSMI): This distinction is done to encourage innovations and enable growth of new social 
media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement. 
• Additional due diligence to be followed by SSMI include: 
o Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules,  
o Appointment of Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies  
o Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer to perform the functions mentioned under Grievance 
Redressal Mechanism. These above officers must be residents in India. 
o Publishing a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received, action taken on 
the complaints and details of contents removed. 
o Identification of the first originator of the information: SSMI providing services primarily in the nature of 
messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information (without requiring disclosing 
the contents of any message) that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, 
investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to: (refer to infographics given below)  
o Publication of a physical contact address in India on its website or mobile app or both. 
o Deployment of technology-based measures: To proactively identify information that depicts any act or 
simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct etc. 
Page 3


 
3                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
1. POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1.1. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND 
DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021 
Why in news? 
The Government of India recently notified 
Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 
2021. 
About Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 
Rules, 2021 
• Rules 2021 has been framed by the Central 
Government in exercise of powers under 
section 87 (2) of the Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of 
the earlier Information Technology 
(Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. 
Background 
Following developments culminated in the 
notification of the IT rules, 2021: 
• In December 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) had observed that 
Centre may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos 
and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications. 
• Subsequently, MeitY prepared the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to 
replace the rules notified in 2011 to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms 
accountable under the law. 
• In October 2020, the SC had sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating 
Over-the-top (OTT) by an autonomous body. 
• In November 2020 the Union government brought OTT platforms and news and current affairs content on 
online platforms under the ambit of the I&B ministry. 
• In February 2021 the SC issued a notice to the Central Government seeking creation of a proper board, 
institution or association for managing and monitoring OTT, streaming and media platforms. 
 
Important definitions 
• Digital media means digitized content that can be 
transmitted over the internet or computer networks and 
includes content received, stored, transmitted, edited or 
processed by- 
o an intermediary; or 
o a publisher of news and current affairs content or a 
publisher of online curated content; 
• News and current affairs includes newly received or 
noteworthy content including analysis, especially about 
recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or 
cultural nature, made available over the internet or computer 
networks, and any digital media shall be news and current 
affairs content where the context, substance, purpose, 
import and meaning of such information is in the nature of 
news and current affairs content. 
• Social media intermediary means an intermediary which 
primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or 
more users and allows them to create, upload, share, 
disseminate, modify or access information using its services. 
• Significant social media intermediary (SSMI) means a social 
media intermediary having number of registered users in 
India, above such threshold as notified by the Central 
Government. 
o The threshold for SSMI has been set at 50 lakh (5 
million) registered users.  
• Online curated content means any curated catalogue of 
audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs 
content and made available on demand etc. 
• Publisher of news and current affairs content means an 
online paper, news portal, news aggregator, news agency 
which is functionally similar to publishers of news and current 
affairs content but shall not include newspapers, replica e-
papers of the newspaper and any individual or user who is 
not transmitting content in the course of systematic business, 
professional or commercial activity. 
 
4                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
Factors that necessitated formulation of new rules  
• Rapid growth in user base: Due to Digital India programme and extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet 
etc. major social media platforms have huge number of users.  
o Indian OTT market is also set to reach Rs 237.86 billion by FY25, from Rs 42.50 billion in FY19. 
• Failure of self-regulation: Despite having internal mechanisms to tackle illegal and inappropriate content, 
Social media companies have thus far been incompetent to effectively address certain harrowing issues.  
o Also, the self-regulatory mechanism proposed by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) was 
rejected by the I&B Ministry due to issues such as conflict of interest, lack of independent third-party 
monitoring, well-defined Code of Ethics etc. 
• Ensuring safety and dignity of women: Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women 
and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. 
• Persistent spread of fake news and misinformation: Fake news, rumours etc. spread virally through platforms 
like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. There have been instances of targeted misinformation aimed at religious 
minorities and dissenting individuals, with consequences ranging from riots, death threats to actual murders. 
• Threat to democratic institutions and security landscape: Increasing instances of misuse of social media by 
criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies.  
• Need for an appropriate institutional mechanism: There is no law or autonomous body to monitor and 
manage the digital content. Also, there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social 
media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. 
1.1.1. GUIDELINES RELATED TO SOCIAL MEDIA INTERMEDIARIES 
Key provisions 
• Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries: Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by social 
media intermediaries like retention of user information for a period of 180 days, reporting cyber security 
incidents etc.  
o In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them. 
o These safe harbour provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social 
media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their 
platforms. 
• Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and 
share the name and contact details of such officer.  
o Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its 
receipt. 
• Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable 
access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals or is 
in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.  
• Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries i.e., social media intermediaries and significant social media 
intermediaries (SSMI): This distinction is done to encourage innovations and enable growth of new social 
media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement. 
• Additional due diligence to be followed by SSMI include: 
o Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules,  
o Appointment of Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies  
o Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer to perform the functions mentioned under Grievance 
Redressal Mechanism. These above officers must be residents in India. 
o Publishing a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received, action taken on 
the complaints and details of contents removed. 
o Identification of the first originator of the information: SSMI providing services primarily in the nature of 
messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information (without requiring disclosing 
the contents of any message) that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, 
investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to: (refer to infographics given below)  
o Publication of a physical contact address in India on its website or mobile app or both. 
o Deployment of technology-based measures: To proactively identify information that depicts any act or 
simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct etc. 
 
5                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
o Voluntary User Verification 
Mechanism: Users who wish to 
verify their accounts voluntarily to 
be provided an appropriate 
mechanism to do so with provision 
of demonstrable and visible mark of 
verification.  
o Giving users an opportunity to be 
heard: In cases where significant 
social media intermediaries 
removes or disables access to any 
information on their own accord, then a prior intimation should be communicated to the user notice 
explaining the grounds and reasons for such action and the user must be provided an adequate and 
reasonable opportunity to dispute the action.  
• Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving order by a court or being notified by the 
Appropriate Govt. or its agencies should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any 
law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with 
foreign countries etc. 
Intended Benefits 
• Empowering the ordinary users 
of digital platforms to seek 
redressal for their grievances and 
command accountability in case 
of infringement of their rights. 
• Improved deployment of new 
technologies such as machine 
learning tool which can help 
tackle child sexual abuse imagery 
(CSAM) or abuse.  
• Safety of users by addressing 
illegal activities on social media 
uniform across all social media 
platforms and ensuring the 
safety of the majority social 
media users across India. 
• Help law enforcement authorities by identifying the first originator of the information by ceasing and curbing 
the nuisance of fake news, child porn and other illicit activities. 
• Clarify the responsibilities of intermediaries. 
1.1.2. GUIDELINES RELATED TO DIGITAL MEDIA AND OTT PLATFORMS 
Key provisions 
Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and three tier grievance redressal 
mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media. They have been notified under section 87 
of IT Act empowering the I&B Ministry to implement this part of the Rules which prescribe the following:  
Code of Ethics  
• As applicable to OTT platforms:  
o OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the 
content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult) based on 
factors such as themes and messages, violence, nudity, drug and substance abuse etc. 
o Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, 
and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.  
o Platforms should prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme 
together with a content descriptor and advisory on viewer discretion at the beginning of every programme 
enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme. 
Concerns associated 
• Enhanced surveillance and threat to privacy of users: The encrypted 
messaging apps will need to collect more user data to trace messages 
back to the first originator, raising concern about misuse by both 
platforms and governments. 
• Conflicts with extraterritorial jurisdiction norms made in the IT Act: 
Since according to the new rules action can be taken against a message 
that originated outside India. 
• Underdeveloped and imperfect nature of artificial intelligence (AI). 
• Self-censorship: Removal of safe harbor can lead to internal censorship 
by intermediaries which have impacts on users’ right to free speech.  
• Vague threshold for qualification of SSMI: These thresholds enable the 
Central government to enforce discriminatory compliances. However, 
there is no scientific criterion to set such thresholds. 
• Potential for misuse of Verification data: In the absence of a data 
protection law Social Media entities will be able to collect data of citizen 
IDs without any regulatory body to ensure that such data is being used 
only for verification. 
Page 4


 
3                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
1. POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1.1. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND 
DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021 
Why in news? 
The Government of India recently notified 
Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 
2021. 
About Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 
Rules, 2021 
• Rules 2021 has been framed by the Central 
Government in exercise of powers under 
section 87 (2) of the Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of 
the earlier Information Technology 
(Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. 
Background 
Following developments culminated in the 
notification of the IT rules, 2021: 
• In December 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) had observed that 
Centre may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos 
and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications. 
• Subsequently, MeitY prepared the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to 
replace the rules notified in 2011 to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms 
accountable under the law. 
• In October 2020, the SC had sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating 
Over-the-top (OTT) by an autonomous body. 
• In November 2020 the Union government brought OTT platforms and news and current affairs content on 
online platforms under the ambit of the I&B ministry. 
• In February 2021 the SC issued a notice to the Central Government seeking creation of a proper board, 
institution or association for managing and monitoring OTT, streaming and media platforms. 
 
Important definitions 
• Digital media means digitized content that can be 
transmitted over the internet or computer networks and 
includes content received, stored, transmitted, edited or 
processed by- 
o an intermediary; or 
o a publisher of news and current affairs content or a 
publisher of online curated content; 
• News and current affairs includes newly received or 
noteworthy content including analysis, especially about 
recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or 
cultural nature, made available over the internet or computer 
networks, and any digital media shall be news and current 
affairs content where the context, substance, purpose, 
import and meaning of such information is in the nature of 
news and current affairs content. 
• Social media intermediary means an intermediary which 
primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or 
more users and allows them to create, upload, share, 
disseminate, modify or access information using its services. 
• Significant social media intermediary (SSMI) means a social 
media intermediary having number of registered users in 
India, above such threshold as notified by the Central 
Government. 
o The threshold for SSMI has been set at 50 lakh (5 
million) registered users.  
• Online curated content means any curated catalogue of 
audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs 
content and made available on demand etc. 
• Publisher of news and current affairs content means an 
online paper, news portal, news aggregator, news agency 
which is functionally similar to publishers of news and current 
affairs content but shall not include newspapers, replica e-
papers of the newspaper and any individual or user who is 
not transmitting content in the course of systematic business, 
professional or commercial activity. 
 
4                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
Factors that necessitated formulation of new rules  
• Rapid growth in user base: Due to Digital India programme and extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet 
etc. major social media platforms have huge number of users.  
o Indian OTT market is also set to reach Rs 237.86 billion by FY25, from Rs 42.50 billion in FY19. 
• Failure of self-regulation: Despite having internal mechanisms to tackle illegal and inappropriate content, 
Social media companies have thus far been incompetent to effectively address certain harrowing issues.  
o Also, the self-regulatory mechanism proposed by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) was 
rejected by the I&B Ministry due to issues such as conflict of interest, lack of independent third-party 
monitoring, well-defined Code of Ethics etc. 
• Ensuring safety and dignity of women: Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women 
and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. 
• Persistent spread of fake news and misinformation: Fake news, rumours etc. spread virally through platforms 
like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. There have been instances of targeted misinformation aimed at religious 
minorities and dissenting individuals, with consequences ranging from riots, death threats to actual murders. 
• Threat to democratic institutions and security landscape: Increasing instances of misuse of social media by 
criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies.  
• Need for an appropriate institutional mechanism: There is no law or autonomous body to monitor and 
manage the digital content. Also, there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social 
media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. 
1.1.1. GUIDELINES RELATED TO SOCIAL MEDIA INTERMEDIARIES 
Key provisions 
• Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries: Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by social 
media intermediaries like retention of user information for a period of 180 days, reporting cyber security 
incidents etc.  
o In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them. 
o These safe harbour provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social 
media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their 
platforms. 
• Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and 
share the name and contact details of such officer.  
o Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its 
receipt. 
• Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable 
access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals or is 
in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.  
• Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries i.e., social media intermediaries and significant social media 
intermediaries (SSMI): This distinction is done to encourage innovations and enable growth of new social 
media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement. 
• Additional due diligence to be followed by SSMI include: 
o Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules,  
o Appointment of Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies  
o Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer to perform the functions mentioned under Grievance 
Redressal Mechanism. These above officers must be residents in India. 
o Publishing a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received, action taken on 
the complaints and details of contents removed. 
o Identification of the first originator of the information: SSMI providing services primarily in the nature of 
messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information (without requiring disclosing 
the contents of any message) that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, 
investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to: (refer to infographics given below)  
o Publication of a physical contact address in India on its website or mobile app or both. 
o Deployment of technology-based measures: To proactively identify information that depicts any act or 
simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct etc. 
 
5                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
o Voluntary User Verification 
Mechanism: Users who wish to 
verify their accounts voluntarily to 
be provided an appropriate 
mechanism to do so with provision 
of demonstrable and visible mark of 
verification.  
o Giving users an opportunity to be 
heard: In cases where significant 
social media intermediaries 
removes or disables access to any 
information on their own accord, then a prior intimation should be communicated to the user notice 
explaining the grounds and reasons for such action and the user must be provided an adequate and 
reasonable opportunity to dispute the action.  
• Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving order by a court or being notified by the 
Appropriate Govt. or its agencies should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any 
law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with 
foreign countries etc. 
Intended Benefits 
• Empowering the ordinary users 
of digital platforms to seek 
redressal for their grievances and 
command accountability in case 
of infringement of their rights. 
• Improved deployment of new 
technologies such as machine 
learning tool which can help 
tackle child sexual abuse imagery 
(CSAM) or abuse.  
• Safety of users by addressing 
illegal activities on social media 
uniform across all social media 
platforms and ensuring the 
safety of the majority social 
media users across India. 
• Help law enforcement authorities by identifying the first originator of the information by ceasing and curbing 
the nuisance of fake news, child porn and other illicit activities. 
• Clarify the responsibilities of intermediaries. 
1.1.2. GUIDELINES RELATED TO DIGITAL MEDIA AND OTT PLATFORMS 
Key provisions 
Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and three tier grievance redressal 
mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media. They have been notified under section 87 
of IT Act empowering the I&B Ministry to implement this part of the Rules which prescribe the following:  
Code of Ethics  
• As applicable to OTT platforms:  
o OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the 
content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult) based on 
factors such as themes and messages, violence, nudity, drug and substance abuse etc. 
o Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, 
and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.  
o Platforms should prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme 
together with a content descriptor and advisory on viewer discretion at the beginning of every programme 
enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme. 
Concerns associated 
• Enhanced surveillance and threat to privacy of users: The encrypted 
messaging apps will need to collect more user data to trace messages 
back to the first originator, raising concern about misuse by both 
platforms and governments. 
• Conflicts with extraterritorial jurisdiction norms made in the IT Act: 
Since according to the new rules action can be taken against a message 
that originated outside India. 
• Underdeveloped and imperfect nature of artificial intelligence (AI). 
• Self-censorship: Removal of safe harbor can lead to internal censorship 
by intermediaries which have impacts on users’ right to free speech.  
• Vague threshold for qualification of SSMI: These thresholds enable the 
Central government to enforce discriminatory compliances. However, 
there is no scientific criterion to set such thresholds. 
• Potential for misuse of Verification data: In the absence of a data 
protection law Social Media entities will be able to collect data of citizen 
IDs without any regulatory body to ensure that such data is being used 
only for verification. 
 
6                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
o Measures to be taken to improve accessibility of online curated content by persons with disabilities. 
o General Principles: OTTs should- 
? not transmit/publish/exhibit any content which is prohibited under any law or by any court. 
? take into consideration India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context and ‘exercise due caution and 
discretion’ while featuring activities, beliefs, practices, or views of any racial or religious groups. 
? take into consideration the factors such as sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, 
public order etc. when deciding to feature or transmit or publish or exhibit any content. 
• As applicable to Publishers of News and current affairs on digital media: They would be required to observe-  
o Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978; 
o Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995; 
o Content which is prohibited under any law. 
Three-level grievance redressal mechanism  
• Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India 
who shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days. 
• Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers: There may be one or more self-
regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body have to: 
o be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and 
have not more than 6 
members. 
o be registered with the 
I&B Ministry.  
o oversee the 
adherence by the 
publisher to the Code 
of Ethics and address 
grievances that have 
not be been resolved 
by the publisher 
within 15 days. 
• Level-III: Oversight 
mechanism: I&B Ministry 
shall formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall: 
o Publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices,  
o Issue orders and directions to the publishers for maintenance and adherence to the Code of Ethics,  
o Establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances: To examine complaints or grievances 
and make recommendations like warning, censuring, admonishing or reprimanding an entity, requiring an 
apology by an entity; deletion or modification of content etc. 
Other Regulations 
• Blocking of information in case of emergency: An Authorized Officer, in any case of emergency nature, will 
examine if it is necessary or expedient and justifiable to block content within the grounds referred to in sub-
section (1) of section 69A of the Act. 
• Furnishing of information: A publisher of news and current affairs content and a publisher of online curated 
content operating in the territory of India, shall  
o inform the Ministry about the details of its entity. 
o publish periodic compliance report every month mentioning the details of grievances received and action 
taken thereon. 
Intended Benefits 
• Access control measures and classification of content will restrict minors from accessing age-inappropriate 
content. 
• Government had in recent times received many complaints from civil society and parents requesting 
interventions. Such grievances can now be resolved in timely manner. 
• Code of ethics can regulate and enhance quality of News and current affairs on digital media at par with 
regular press. 
Page 5


 
3                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
1. POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1.1. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND 
DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021 
Why in news? 
The Government of India recently notified 
Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 
2021. 
About Information Technology (Intermediary 
Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) 
Rules, 2021 
• Rules 2021 has been framed by the Central 
Government in exercise of powers under 
section 87 (2) of the Information 
Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of 
the earlier Information Technology 
(Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. 
Background 
Following developments culminated in the 
notification of the IT rules, 2021: 
• In December 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in suo-moto writ petition (Prajjawala case) had observed that 
Centre may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos 
and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications. 
• Subsequently, MeitY prepared the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to 
replace the rules notified in 2011 to strengthen the legal framework and make the social media platforms 
accountable under the law. 
• In October 2020, the SC had sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating 
Over-the-top (OTT) by an autonomous body. 
• In November 2020 the Union government brought OTT platforms and news and current affairs content on 
online platforms under the ambit of the I&B ministry. 
• In February 2021 the SC issued a notice to the Central Government seeking creation of a proper board, 
institution or association for managing and monitoring OTT, streaming and media platforms. 
 
Important definitions 
• Digital media means digitized content that can be 
transmitted over the internet or computer networks and 
includes content received, stored, transmitted, edited or 
processed by- 
o an intermediary; or 
o a publisher of news and current affairs content or a 
publisher of online curated content; 
• News and current affairs includes newly received or 
noteworthy content including analysis, especially about 
recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or 
cultural nature, made available over the internet or computer 
networks, and any digital media shall be news and current 
affairs content where the context, substance, purpose, 
import and meaning of such information is in the nature of 
news and current affairs content. 
• Social media intermediary means an intermediary which 
primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or 
more users and allows them to create, upload, share, 
disseminate, modify or access information using its services. 
• Significant social media intermediary (SSMI) means a social 
media intermediary having number of registered users in 
India, above such threshold as notified by the Central 
Government. 
o The threshold for SSMI has been set at 50 lakh (5 
million) registered users.  
• Online curated content means any curated catalogue of 
audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs 
content and made available on demand etc. 
• Publisher of news and current affairs content means an 
online paper, news portal, news aggregator, news agency 
which is functionally similar to publishers of news and current 
affairs content but shall not include newspapers, replica e-
papers of the newspaper and any individual or user who is 
not transmitting content in the course of systematic business, 
professional or commercial activity. 
 
4                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
Factors that necessitated formulation of new rules  
• Rapid growth in user base: Due to Digital India programme and extensive spread of mobile phones, Internet 
etc. major social media platforms have huge number of users.  
o Indian OTT market is also set to reach Rs 237.86 billion by FY25, from Rs 42.50 billion in FY19. 
• Failure of self-regulation: Despite having internal mechanisms to tackle illegal and inappropriate content, 
Social media companies have thus far been incompetent to effectively address certain harrowing issues.  
o Also, the self-regulatory mechanism proposed by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) was 
rejected by the I&B Ministry due to issues such as conflict of interest, lack of independent third-party 
monitoring, well-defined Code of Ethics etc. 
• Ensuring safety and dignity of women: Rampant abuse of social media to share morphed images of women 
and contents related to revenge porn have often threatened the dignity of women. 
• Persistent spread of fake news and misinformation: Fake news, rumours etc. spread virally through platforms 
like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. There have been instances of targeted misinformation aimed at religious 
minorities and dissenting individuals, with consequences ranging from riots, death threats to actual murders. 
• Threat to democratic institutions and security landscape: Increasing instances of misuse of social media by 
criminals, anti-national elements have brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies.  
• Need for an appropriate institutional mechanism: There is no law or autonomous body to monitor and 
manage the digital content. Also, there is no robust complaint mechanism wherein the ordinary users of social 
media and OTT platforms can register their complaint and get it redressed within defined timeline. 
1.1.1. GUIDELINES RELATED TO SOCIAL MEDIA INTERMEDIARIES 
Key provisions 
• Due diligence to be followed by intermediaries: Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by social 
media intermediaries like retention of user information for a period of 180 days, reporting cyber security 
incidents etc.  
o In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them. 
o These safe harbour provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social 
media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their 
platforms. 
• Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with complaints and 
share the name and contact details of such officer.  
o Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its 
receipt. 
• Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable 
access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals or is 
in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.  
• Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries i.e., social media intermediaries and significant social media 
intermediaries (SSMI): This distinction is done to encourage innovations and enable growth of new social 
media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement. 
• Additional due diligence to be followed by SSMI include: 
o Appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules,  
o Appointment of Nodal Contact Person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies  
o Appointment of a Resident Grievance Officer to perform the functions mentioned under Grievance 
Redressal Mechanism. These above officers must be residents in India. 
o Publishing a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received, action taken on 
the complaints and details of contents removed. 
o Identification of the first originator of the information: SSMI providing services primarily in the nature of 
messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information (without requiring disclosing 
the contents of any message) that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, 
investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to: (refer to infographics given below)  
o Publication of a physical contact address in India on its website or mobile app or both. 
o Deployment of technology-based measures: To proactively identify information that depicts any act or 
simulation in any form depicting rape, child sexual abuse or conduct etc. 
 
5                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
o Voluntary User Verification 
Mechanism: Users who wish to 
verify their accounts voluntarily to 
be provided an appropriate 
mechanism to do so with provision 
of demonstrable and visible mark of 
verification.  
o Giving users an opportunity to be 
heard: In cases where significant 
social media intermediaries 
removes or disables access to any 
information on their own accord, then a prior intimation should be communicated to the user notice 
explaining the grounds and reasons for such action and the user must be provided an adequate and 
reasonable opportunity to dispute the action.  
• Removal of Unlawful Information: An intermediary upon receiving order by a court or being notified by the 
Appropriate Govt. or its agencies should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any 
law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with 
foreign countries etc. 
Intended Benefits 
• Empowering the ordinary users 
of digital platforms to seek 
redressal for their grievances and 
command accountability in case 
of infringement of their rights. 
• Improved deployment of new 
technologies such as machine 
learning tool which can help 
tackle child sexual abuse imagery 
(CSAM) or abuse.  
• Safety of users by addressing 
illegal activities on social media 
uniform across all social media 
platforms and ensuring the 
safety of the majority social 
media users across India. 
• Help law enforcement authorities by identifying the first originator of the information by ceasing and curbing 
the nuisance of fake news, child porn and other illicit activities. 
• Clarify the responsibilities of intermediaries. 
1.1.2. GUIDELINES RELATED TO DIGITAL MEDIA AND OTT PLATFORMS 
Key provisions 
Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code of Ethics and three tier grievance redressal 
mechanism for news publishers and OTT Platforms and digital media. They have been notified under section 87 
of IT Act empowering the I&B Ministry to implement this part of the Rules which prescribe the following:  
Code of Ethics  
• As applicable to OTT platforms:  
o OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the 
content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult) based on 
factors such as themes and messages, violence, nudity, drug and substance abuse etc. 
o Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, 
and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.  
o Platforms should prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme 
together with a content descriptor and advisory on viewer discretion at the beginning of every programme 
enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme. 
Concerns associated 
• Enhanced surveillance and threat to privacy of users: The encrypted 
messaging apps will need to collect more user data to trace messages 
back to the first originator, raising concern about misuse by both 
platforms and governments. 
• Conflicts with extraterritorial jurisdiction norms made in the IT Act: 
Since according to the new rules action can be taken against a message 
that originated outside India. 
• Underdeveloped and imperfect nature of artificial intelligence (AI). 
• Self-censorship: Removal of safe harbor can lead to internal censorship 
by intermediaries which have impacts on users’ right to free speech.  
• Vague threshold for qualification of SSMI: These thresholds enable the 
Central government to enforce discriminatory compliances. However, 
there is no scientific criterion to set such thresholds. 
• Potential for misuse of Verification data: In the absence of a data 
protection law Social Media entities will be able to collect data of citizen 
IDs without any regulatory body to ensure that such data is being used 
only for verification. 
 
6                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
o Measures to be taken to improve accessibility of online curated content by persons with disabilities. 
o General Principles: OTTs should- 
? not transmit/publish/exhibit any content which is prohibited under any law or by any court. 
? take into consideration India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context and ‘exercise due caution and 
discretion’ while featuring activities, beliefs, practices, or views of any racial or religious groups. 
? take into consideration the factors such as sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, 
public order etc. when deciding to feature or transmit or publish or exhibit any content. 
• As applicable to Publishers of News and current affairs on digital media: They would be required to observe-  
o Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978; 
o Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995; 
o Content which is prohibited under any law. 
Three-level grievance redressal mechanism  
• Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India 
who shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days. 
• Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers: There may be one or more self-
regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body have to: 
o be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and 
have not more than 6 
members. 
o be registered with the 
I&B Ministry.  
o oversee the 
adherence by the 
publisher to the Code 
of Ethics and address 
grievances that have 
not be been resolved 
by the publisher 
within 15 days. 
• Level-III: Oversight 
mechanism: I&B Ministry 
shall formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall: 
o Publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices,  
o Issue orders and directions to the publishers for maintenance and adherence to the Code of Ethics,  
o Establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances: To examine complaints or grievances 
and make recommendations like warning, censuring, admonishing or reprimanding an entity, requiring an 
apology by an entity; deletion or modification of content etc. 
Other Regulations 
• Blocking of information in case of emergency: An Authorized Officer, in any case of emergency nature, will 
examine if it is necessary or expedient and justifiable to block content within the grounds referred to in sub-
section (1) of section 69A of the Act. 
• Furnishing of information: A publisher of news and current affairs content and a publisher of online curated 
content operating in the territory of India, shall  
o inform the Ministry about the details of its entity. 
o publish periodic compliance report every month mentioning the details of grievances received and action 
taken thereon. 
Intended Benefits 
• Access control measures and classification of content will restrict minors from accessing age-inappropriate 
content. 
• Government had in recent times received many complaints from civil society and parents requesting 
interventions. Such grievances can now be resolved in timely manner. 
• Code of ethics can regulate and enhance quality of News and current affairs on digital media at par with 
regular press. 
 
7                                                                               www.visionias.in                                                                        ©Vision IAS  
• 3 tier grievance redressal 
mechanism establishes 
enables self-regulation 
with minimal 
government 
intervention. 
• Improved access to 
online curated content to 
persons with disabilities.  
Conclusion 
These Rules and the efforts by 
the Indian government are 
certainly laudable and ensure 
that technological 
advancements go hand in 
hand with legal developments 
thereby creating a level 
playing field for all service 
providers and also protecting 
citizens of the country. 
For more information also 
refer to the article 
“Regulating Over-The-Top 
(OTT) Platforms” in 
November 2020 VISIONIAS 
Current Affairs Magazine. 
1.2. SEDITION LAW IN INDIA 
Why in news? 
Supreme Court rejected a plea urging it to re-examine the constitutional validity of Section 124A of IPC, which 
deals with sedition. 
Background 
• The law was originally drafted in 1837 by Thomas Macaulay, the British historian-politician, but was 
inexplicably omitted when the IPC was enacted in 1860. 
• Section 124A was inserted in 1870 by an amendment introduced by Sir James Stephen when it felt the need 
for a specific section to deal with the offence. It was one of the many draconian laws enacted to stifle any 
voices of dissent at that time. 
• The first case was registered in 1891, when Jogendra Chandra Bose, editor of a newspaper ‘Bangobasi’ was 
booked for publishing an article criticising “Age of Consent Bill”. 
• Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, the Ali Brothers, Maulana Azad, Gandhi and very many others suffered 
imprisonment under this law. 
About Sedition 
• Indian Penal Code defines sedition (Section 124A) as an offence committed when any person brings or 
attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the 
government established by law in India by: 
o words, either spoken or written 
o signs 
o visible representation, or otherwise 
• ‘Disaffection’ includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. However, comments without exciting or 
attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection do not constitute an offence under this section.  
Concerns 
• Impact on Indian cinema/television: India cinema/television provides 
employment and entertainment to audiences locally and globally. Rules may 
likely have a substantial impact on citizens’ digital rights, resulting in economic 
harm, and may also negatively impact India’s growing cultural influence. 
• Unfair competition for small digital media houses: The definition of “publisher 
of news and current affairs content” privileges the established media houses, 
who may have a print newspaper as a significant component of their operations 
and could thus claim to be exempted from these guidelines.  
o Smaller and independent media houses which rely on the internet to 
disseminate news and information will face enhanced compliance cost and 
censorship. 
• Regulation of foreign news media: If a digital news media organisation makes its 
content available in India in a systematic and continued manner, the provisions 
of the Intermediaries Rules will apply to them. However, it is unclear how foreign 
news media organisations are sought to be regulated by Indian authorities.  
• Forcing self-censorship: Certain criteria provided in the Code of Ethics are vague, 
overbroad and can have a chilling effect on the free speech of publishers. Also, 
certain rules can give formal validity to the illegitimate concerns which have been 
raised by certain groups against artistic content. 
• Excessive governmental control over digital news and OTT content:  The 
Chairman of the self-regulatory body is suggested to be a retired Judge of the 
High Court or Supreme Court, and even though the body is expected to be 
appointed/elected by the media community, the I&B Ministry retains approval 
power over the composition of the body. 
• Lack of punitive measures for violators: The rules are more in the nature of 
guidelines and there is no effective mechanism for screening or provision for 
punishment /fine to take appropriate action against violators. 
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