The new notice gives media houses and OTT platforms 15 days to comply with the Information Technology guidelines, deemed unconstitutional by experts.
Bangalore: On May 26, 2021, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) issued a notice to all ‘digital media publishers’, to comply, within 15 days, with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Codes) Rules, 2021, notified by the Government of India on the February 25, 2021. This includes those that publish on traditional media and OTT platforms. The platforms have until June 10, to comply.
The IT guidelines dictate that all digital media platforms and intermediaries have to; establish a grievance redressal mechanism, monitor activity on their websites actively, take down content within 32 hours of a court order being presented, expedite response to grievances, create self-regulatory mechanisms, furnish monthly compliance reports (of Indian users) and submit to oversight from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The new guidelines make it important for platforms and media houses to now determine who says what on behalf of the organizations and in what form it is published. The guideline gets rid of the ‘safe harbour’ that social media platforms provide, said Pranesh Prakash, former policy director for the Center for Internet and Society. He explained that this means that platforms could be held responsible for what a user publishes on a service the platform provides.
Pranesh said that when the IT guidelines came, the terms to comply for Google and World of warcraft, an online video game, were identical. “What works for World of Warcraft won’t work for Gmail, yet the government has deemed the same set of rules for everyone, including media sites,” he said, “all these are ways that free speech is threatened.” He added that news media and video content would now risk self-censorship, where publications choose not to publish instead of risking reprisal from the government.
In the past few days, Facebook and Google have announced that they will comply with the guidelines. Twitter has called on the government to respect ‘the freedom of speech’, standing against what it calls the government’s ‘heavy handed’ efforts to stifle freedom of expression. WhatsApp has sued the Indian Government at the Delhi High Court over certain provisions of the guidelines, contending that they are “unconstitutional, illegal” and go beyond the purview of the Information Technology Act.