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Centre issued new rules for digital media regulation

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    19th Jul, 2021

Several lawsuits have challenged the constitutional validity of the government’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, better known as the Digital Media Ethics Rules 2021.

Context

Several lawsuits have challenged the constitutional validity of the government’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, better known as the Digital Media Ethics Rules 2021.

About

About the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

  • The rules were notified on February 25, 2021.
  • These rules seek to regulate social media intermediaries such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, as also digital media, including OTT and digital news platforms.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) will execute the guidelines for social media intermediaries, and the information and broadcasting ministry will oversee the code of ethics for digital media.
  • These rules are intended to create a level playing field for print, television, and digital media.
  • They also create a regulatory framework for digital media.
  • Per the rules, all intermediaries and digital media platforms must set up a three-tier grievance redress mechanism and submit monthly compliance reports.
  • Complaints must be acknowledged in 24 hours and disposed of in 15 days.
  • The l&B secretary is authorized to block or take down content in the interim.

Objections to the rules

  • Facebook-owned WhatsApp opposes the rule to identify the "first originator" of an "offensive" message, as it would mean breach end-to-end encryption of messages, which cannot be done for India alone.
  • Twitter objected to criminal liabilities. Under the rules, compliance officers can face criminal action for content posted on their platforms.
  • Digital news media opposes the regulations on grounds of not being consulted.
  • OTT platforms have complied, they argue that the industry should have the freedom to decide on the composition and working of the self-regulatory mechanism.

Regulation of Media, Digital media and Social media in India

  • In 1966, began to establish a self-regulatory organisation called the Press Council. In India, a statutory body, the Press Council of India (PCI), governs the conduct of the print media.
  • The body that regulates and governs the media and entertainment sector in India is enshrined in the Cable Networks Act, 1995 and the PrasarBharti Act, 1990. These are regulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and PrasarBharti.
  • Films being released on screens are already subject to the certification from Central BoardofFilm Certification (CBFC), a statutory body formed under the act of the Parliament, the Cinematograph Act, 1952. 
  • Several OTT platforms and operators like Hostar, Netflix are not governed till now, however they are increasingly adopting self-regulation codes.
  • The ‘Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021’: The Rules have been framed under the Information Technology Act, 2000, by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), which administers the Act. These rules seek to regulate content in social media platforms (intermediaries) like Twitter and Facebook, a consequence of the government feeling that unbridled content on these platforms is sometimes inimical to the country’s interests.
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