Analysis of the new OTT rules and code for digital and social media apps

By: Ayushee Subhadarshini

In the emerging days of technological advancements, the online platforms have leveled up their games to the next level. The platforms like Social media and over-the-top (OTT) services provide so much content to the audience directly through internet. Staying at homes during the pandemic has become easier through these platforms. People create content, share their opinions and views, binge watch series and movies, educate people and also help in promoting online businesses. A large group of people are getting the opportunity to avail these services. The fast increasing advancement of the digital world has helped the world in great ways, but there are also certain ways by which these platforms are being misused by a large part of the society.

Looking forward to the rising influence of OTT in India the platforms have acquired a large share of the entertainment market. Not only the content they provide but the opportunity they serve. OTTs have given a large opportunity to the small growing production houses as well who deal with scripts which show the reality of today’s world and the problems faced by common man. The OTT services were mostly enjoyed by people because it gave them a comfort at their homes, until the government tried to put its hands in the regulations of these services. The government issued notification regarding the Intermediaries and Digital Media ethics rule, 2021 after the harsh reality of the Indian culture was hit on the face of Nationalists. Their views reflected how the Indian Culture has been defamed through these platforms.

In 2018 a committee was formed which included secretaries from various prominent departments to bring about changes in certain rules and regulations for these online platforms after wide field of research on the regulations internationally as well. This committee was formed after the case of Prajwala vs. Union of India where the Supreme Court observed that there is a need to regulate the contents provided in these OTT platforms like to stamp out the contents which include pornography, abuse, rape, nudity, violent and aggressive display which in turn may cause harm to the society and spread hatred. Tehseen S. Poonawalla case, the SC gave the government full freedom to eliminate the “irresponsible and explosive messages on various social media platforms, which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind” In 2021, the ministry of electronics and Information Technology and the ministry of broadcasting released notification regarding the new guidelines. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.This was done by the government under Section87 of the IT Act, 2000.So putting some light on the previous rules and regulations related to digital media and OTT platforms.

So basically this has been divided into three categories -the first part consists of the definitions ,the second part is regarding the due diligence by the intermediaries and, the third part deals with the code of ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to the digital media The due diligence of the intermediaries include the following;

  • The platforms should provide the users all the terms and conditions of the use of such platforms as well as lay down all the rules and privacy policies to the user so as to keep a check and record of the access.
  • the intermediaries should within 24 hours of receipt of complain take measures and actions which are reasonable to eliminate or disable such content which exposes the private areas of a person shows partial or complete nudity or shows any sexual act or conduct or any type of content with viruses threatens abusers any individual
  • The intermediary should retain registration information of a user for six months after cancellation of registration.

Besides due diligence of intermediaries many additional guidelines have also been issued regarding the social media intermediaries. These are like appointment of Chief Complaint Officer who shall be a resident of India, who would ensure the compliance with it rules and the appointment of a Nodal contact person who is required to co-ordinate with the law enforcing Agencies all the time .It should also appoint a grievance officer who shall be a resident of India it also States to report mentioning the Complaints and actions. The OTT platforms also need to classify their content into mainly five categories which is according to the age group -U (Unrestricted),U/A 7+ (Unrestricted Public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 7),U/A 13+ (Unrestricted Public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 13),U/A 16+ (Unrestricted Public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 16),An (Adult).The guidelines also regulate the need of parental locks so as to restrict the people of certain category to get access to some matured content. Moreover the new guidelines also provide for Grievance Redressal mechanism in which an officer will address the issues which should be raised reasonably within 24 hours and should be solved within 15 days. A three-tier Grievance Redressal mechanism would help to deal with the complaints of the content in which the first tier would be self-regulation by the publishers the second would be self- regulation by the Self-Regulating bodies of the Publishers and the last would be an oversight mechanism by the central government in which the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will establish an Inter-Departmental Committee to hear grievances not addressed by self-regulating bodies and also oversee adherence to the code of ethics. The digital media publishers are also required to follow the norms of Journalistic conduct of the press council of India and also the Programme codes of cable TV networks so as to ensure their spheres and limits of offline and online platforms.

Though there are certainly bright sides of this Act, but somehow it is felt that it curbs the democracy of the country as it restricts the freedom of expression. If the government thinks that certain contents are there which violates the peace and harmony of the nation then it can struck down the content. Obviously this puts a ban on free flow of information on online platforms. Certain privacy concerns would also arise as right to privacy now comes under the ambit of Article 21 that provides right to life to all. The provision in the act which mentions about the identification of the content creator would raise concerns for privacy. Unfair acts arising out of these can create a lot of problems. Moreover when certain guidelines are created they are for the people and by the people. While drafting these rules no professional from digital platform was asked to recommend or consult in the matter rather it was a decision taken by the government.


As there are always two sides to a coin, certainly the rules made have both pros and cons. It reflects the values and virtues of the society at large. Though India being a democratic country we can see how it contradicts the concept by restricting certain rights. We should see how the citizens and the government comply with these rules.