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Know new norms for OTT Platform & Online Content; Code of ethics, classification on the basis of age

WebdeskMar 03, 2021, 03:24 PM IST

Know new norms for OTT Platform & Online Content; Code of ethics, classification on the basis of age

To regulate the content online, the government of India has recently unveiled new guidelines for over the top (OTT) and social media platforms. The set policies are to keep an eye on web content and empower social media users. The new rules framed by the government are set according to a three-tier regulation mechanism for over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, websites content and require them to self-classify their content into five categories based on age suitability. It is a part of a mandatory Code of Ethics for online media to curate content under the government’s new guidelines for digital media content. The 5 categories are as follows: 1. U- Universal- Suitable for all - Under this, the programmes that are suitable for all age-groups will be listed. It doesn’t designate that the material is intended for children, but the parents may allow their children to watch such shows. This category will include little to no realistic violence, no sex or nudity, no psychotropic, illegal or harmful substance use and any threat or anti-social behaviour. It can only include mid language usage. 2. 1 U/A- General Viewing but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children - Under this category, the divisions are made based on age running from 7 and above, 13 and above, 16 and above age bracket. 2.2 U/A- 7+: Suitable for 7 years and above - The theme here might be a little stronger; therefore, parental directions are suggested before allowing the child to watch the shows. Violence here may be more realistic, but tends to be rooted in fantasy or comedy and is generally not prolonged. There are no explicit images of sex or nudity and any sexual content is limited to affectionate encounters. Crude humour may be present but there is no harsh language. Also, no depictions of illegal drug usage or any reference related to that are not permitted under this category. 3. U/A 13+: Suitable for age 13 and above - Here the shows that are made for the more mature audience will be listed. Parents should be careful and educated about the shows, before allowing their children to indulge. The violence can be more realistic, graphic but not too gory. There might be mentions of self-harm that might be there but not in too many details. Similarly, sexual activity and implied nudity is allowed but not graphic, sexual references and innuendo will be accepted. The language also will be more mature compared to the above-mentioned categories but will not include strong coarse expletives. There might be references for drug misuse, but no show will be allowed to contain explicit depictions of illegal drugs. 4. U/A 16+: Suitable for 16 years and above - Under this category, no programme is suitable for children. Violence here can include graphics, self-harm, sexual violence but gore will not be prolonged or excessive. Sexual content and nudity can be more for adults but not for graphics. Crude and frequent will be allowed under this listing. Drug misuse can be depicted but not glamorised or promoted. 5. A- Adult: 18 years and above - This is the last classification where no one below the age of 18 will be allowed to access the content mentioned under this category. Only adults can view the mature content available here. The graphic nature of any depictions may be more extreme than the above-mentioned rating list. Violence could be more gory, cruel, extreme and disturbing. Content may have strong language use, mature sex scenes along with nudity, abuse of illegal drug substances. Code of Ethics for all social platforms Amidst the growing concern regarding social media abuse, the Government of India has recently released the guidelines for over-the-top (OTT) and social media platforms. The guidelines have asked the technology platforms to be more accountable against the “misuse and abuse” disseminated online. “Social media platforms have empowered many ordinary users but guidelines are mandatory requirement to check and balance the content for a healthy and harmonious society. As part of the new guidelines, the centre can ask the platforms to reveal the originator of a message. The all-new code of ethics announced by the government mandates intermediaries to exercise due caution and discretion when featuring the activities, beliefs, practices, or views of any racial or religious group. Code of Ethics To regulate the content available online the government has framed up a new set of rules, for intermediaries. This Code of Ethics to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities. News and Current Affairs- The document says publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act 1978 and the Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media. The document further reads, content which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force shall not be transmitted. Online Curated Content- -The all-new document released by the government asks an applicable entity to exercise due caution and discretion before publishing any content which affects the sovereignty and integrity of India and also content that threatens, endangers, or jeopardizes the security of the state. The applicable entity shall also refrain from publishing content that can harm India’s friendly relations with foreign countries. -Based on the nature and type of content, the publishers of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating. For example, online curated content which is suitable for children, as well as people of all ages, shall be classified as “U” rating. Similarly, the content which is suitable for a person aged 7 years and above must be classified as U/A 7+, U/A 13+ for persons aged 13 years and above. Online curated content which is restricted to adults shall be classified as an “A” rating. -Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for viewing content classified as “A”. -Before publishing any content online the intermediary should inform the viewer about the nature of the content. And advise the viewer about the description at the beginning of every programme. This will enable the user to make an informed decision regarding the show. -Implementation of appropriate access services of online curated content for persons with disabilities. -Appropriate access control measures to restrict the access of a child from viewing content classified as “A”. Advertisements - All advertisements in relation to online curated content, and news and current affairs content shall adhere to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Advertising Codes laid down under the Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act, 1995, and arid-Codes of the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) The new social media guidelines now released by the government will have a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism in relation to social media platforms as well as digital media and OTT platforms. These set guidelines will also help the parents to manage young children's media usage and protect them from getting exposed to explicit material available online.

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