Ethics of Digital Media

  • Category
    Ethics
  • Published
    1st Jun, 2021

The major social media platforms failed to comply with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 within the deadline required by the government.

Context

The major social media platforms failed to comply with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 within the deadline required by the government

Background

  • In April 2018, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting passed an Order forming a 10 member committee to “frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media/news portals including digital broadcasting and entertainment/ infotainment sites & news/ media aggregators”
  • The committee was subsequently disbanded in July, 2018 and the task was handed over to a panel overseen by MEITY. Creating a distinction between two separate categories of content
  • Subsequently on 09.11.2020, the President of India issued a notification under Article 77(3) of the Constitution, amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 which granted MIB the power to regulate online news platforms and OTT platforms.
  • The Code of Ethics and Procedure and Safeguards in Relation to Digital/ Online Media “rules” have been notified by the Central Government under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000

Analysis

What is media ethics?

  • Media ethics is the sub-division of applied ethics dealing with the specific ethical principles and standard of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, arts, print media and the internet. The field covers many varied and highly controversial topics, ranging from war journalism to advertising.

Digital Media Ethics

  • Digital media ethics deals with the distinct ethical problems, practices and norms of digital news media. Digital news media includes online journalism, blogging, digital photojournalism, citizen journalism and social media.
  • It also includes questions about how professional journalism should use this new media to research and publish stories, as well as how to use text or images provided by citizens.

Ethical issues emerging out of digital media

  • Plagiarism has become an often-accepted practice and international cultural norm due at least in part to the ease and temptation of copying online sources.
  • Digitally altering images or video is common in advertising and sometimes in news.
  • Using anonymous sources is frequently an accepted practice in journalism. 
  • Omnidirectional imaging is more than science fiction.
  • WikiLeaks and the transparency of public records have changed how the public understands government, the military and big business around the world. 
  • Artificial intelligence and computerized newswriting are commercial realities. 
  • Social media, Web-cams and privacy are part of citizens' daily lives. 

Universal Code of Ethics for media

  • The media all over the world has voluntarily accepted that code of ethics should cover at least the following areas of conduct.
    • Honesty and fairness; duty to seek the views of the subject of any critical reportage in advance of publication; duty to correct factual errors; duty not to falsify pictures or to use them in a misleading fashion;
    • duty to provide an opportunity to reply to critical opinions as well as to critical factual reportage;
    • appearance as well as reality of objectivity; some codes prohibit members of the press from receiving gifts’
    • respect for privacy;
    • duty to distinguish between facts and opinion;
    • duty not to discriminate or to inflame hatred on such grounds as race, nationality, religion, or gender; some codes call on the press to refrain from mentioning the race, religion or nationality of the subject of news stories unless relevant to the story; some call for coverage which promotes tolerance;
    • duty not to use dishonest means to obtain information;
    • duty not to endanger people;
    • general standards of decency and taste;
    • duty not to prejudge the guilt of an accused and to publish the dismissal of charges against or acquittal of anyone about whom

Programme Code to be adhered by Digital Media Houses in India

  • Programme code is mentioned under Rule 6 of Cable Television Network Rules, 1994
  • No programme should be carried in the cable service which:-
    1. Offends against good taste or decency;
    2. Contains criticism of friendly countries;
    3. Contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes;
    4. Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths;
    5. is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes;
    6. Contains anything amounting to contempt of court;
    7. Contains aspersions against the integrity of the President and Judiciary;
    8. Contains anything affecting the integrity of the Nation;
    9. Criticises, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country ;
    10. Encourages superstition or blind belief;
    11. Denigrates women through the depiction in any manner of the figure of a women, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals;
    12. Denigrates children;
    13. Contains visuals or words which reflect a slandering, ironical and snobbish attitude in the portrayal of certain ethnic, linguistic and regional groups ;
    14. Contravenes the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
    15. is not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition.

Conclusion

  • A media revolution is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. The means to publish is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and immediate.
  • We are moving towards a mixed news media – a news media citizen and professional journalism across many media platforms. This new mixed news media requires a new  mixed media ethics – guidelines that apply to amateur and professional whether they blog, Tweet, broadcast or write for newspapers. Media ethics needs to be rethought and reinvented for the media of today, not of yesteryear.
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