q-some-amount-of-tightening-of-policy-is-inevitable-given-new-challenges-but-this-should-not-interfere-with-the-fundamental-rights-in-this-context-critically-examine-the-the-information-technology-gui

Q) Some amount of tightening of policy is inevitable given new challenges. But this should not interfere with the Fundamental Rights. In this context, critically examine the ‘The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’.

Why this Question:

The government recently unveiled The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Key Demand of the question.

Key provisions of the recent rules, why it is necessary and the concerns associated with it. 

Directive:

Critically examine- Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding the topic. Try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues identified are most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.

Introduction:

Give a brief overview of the recent rules for regulation of digital platforms in India and its objective. 

Body:

In the first part, categorically mention the necessity for these rules in the Indian context.

In the next part, explain what are the concerns regarding these rules and the impact it will have on fundamental rights. 

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward. 

Model Answer

The Government of India recently unveiled a new set of rules - The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 for the regulation of online platforms in India. The policy has tried to create the much-needed level-playing field between online news platforms and print media on the one hand and online and television news media on the other.

Why was this necessary?

  1. To keep out obnoxious online content that promotes violence and vulgarity.
  2. To undermine the ill effects it has on society especially among the younger generation. 
  3. To protect the internet users and deal firmly with platforms that promote violence, terrorist material, child abuse, cyber bullying, etc.
  4. To bring the online platforms of news and entertainment at par with the print media as well as the cinema.
  5. It is in accordance with the 2018 Supreme Court observation that the government “may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gang rape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.

However, there are certain concerns related to the new regulations proposed by the government. These include:

  1. It will bring government control rather than regulation over digital news platforms and OTT video content providers.
  2. Provisions like traceability of encrypted content, harsh content take down timelines, and automated content filtering are blunt and disproportionate to the intention behind these changes.
  3. It could prove counterproductive in a country where the citizens still do not have a data privacy law to guard themselves against excesses committed by any party
  4. Apart from imposing a compliance burden on digital publishers — many are small entities — this also opens the floodgates for all kinds of interventions. The potential for misuse is enormous.
  5. It poses a challenge to the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  6. The grievance redressal mechanism that can be used by anyone and everyone is a major provision that can be misused. 

There is no denying that there are problems with online content, which the government has rightly highlighted now and some amount of regulation is inevitable. But given an environment where people are sensitive to content, the regulatory mechanism could become an operational nightmare. Any regulation by the government has to adopt a balanced approach for regulation as well as creativity and expression.