Q) Given the new challenges in digital content, some strict policy measures are needed, but over regulation can lead to some unintended outcomes. In this critically examine the new IT rules, 2021.
Why this Question?
Issue of current importance.
Key demand of the Question
Discuss the new IT rules, 2021 and the concerns emerging out of its enforcement.
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.
Start by briefly giving a context about the question.
In the first part, highlight the key features of the new IT rules, 2021.
In the next part, highlight the concerns related to the new rules.
Conclude with a way forward.
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 tries 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.
Advantages of the new Rules
- It will help to keep out obnoxious online content that promotes violence and vulgarity.
- It will undermine the ill effects such content has on society especially among the younger generation.
- It will protect the internet users and deal firmly with platforms that promote violence, terrorist material, child abuse, cyber bullying, etc.
- It brings the online platforms of news and entertainment at par with the print media as well as the cinema.
- 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.
Concerns related to the New Rules
- It will bring government control rather than regulation over digital news platforms and OTT video content providers.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- It poses a challenge to the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
- 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.