The government on Thursday announced sweeping regulations for social media firms like Facebook and Twitter as well as OTT players such as Netflix, requiring them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country.

According to NDTV Gadgets 360, the guidelines also make it mandatory for platforms such as Twitter and WhatsApp to identify the originator of a message that authorities consider to be anti-national and against security and sovereignty of the country.

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The rules about digital media and OTT focus more on in-house and self-regulation mechanism whereby a robust grievance redressal mechanism has been provided while upholding journalistic and creative freedom. This is the first time such rules have been framed for digital and online media operating within the country’s jurisdiction.

The norms on social media come weeks after a spat between the government and Twitter over certain messages around farmer protests that the government saw as inciting violence. The government sought removal of about 1,500 accounts and messages, a request that Twitter complied with, only after being warned of penal action.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said concerns have been raised over rampant abuse of social media platforms and spread of fake news.

“Social media companies are welcome to do business in India, and empower Indians…We welcome criticism and dissent… but it is important that users of social media are given a proper forum for resolution of their grievances in a time-bound manner,” Prasad said.

India is a large market for digital and social media companies and is witnessing strong growth on the back of booming smartphone sales and availability of dirt cheap data.

Prasad said intermediaries will fall into two categories – social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary. This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform, and the government will soon notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish the two.

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