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I&B Ministry disbands online content regulation committee; MeitY to step in

The I&B Ministry has disbanded its online content regulation committee, which was set up in April, reports in the Hindustan Times and the Print say. The committee had been set up by former I&B Minister Smriti Irani. Following a cabinet reshuffle, which led to Rajyavardhan Rathore taking over the from Irani the ministry switched to a softer tone on regulating online content. An RTI filing by Medianama revealed that the committee hadn’t met even once.

Reports suggest that a new committee will be set up, this time by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology. HT’s report says that a MeitY committee on “investment in critical national infrastructure and digital broadcasting” will be replacing the I&B Ministry’s committee.

“The terms of reference of the proposed online regulation committee were similar to those of the existing committee set up by MeitY. Hence, it has been decided that its terms of reference will be dovetailed with the existing committee,” HT quoted an I&B Ministry official as saying. This essentially transfers the functions of the I&B Ministry’s committee to one which was seemingly created to determine investment strategies in digital broadcasting.

Timeline

In early April, the I&B Ministry said that it will withdraw the accreditation of any journalist who spreads fake news. Following backlash, much of it from journalists, that announcement was withdrawn.

Later that month, the ministry set up a committee to regulate online content. It would explore ways to regulate both news and entertainment content online, even the I&B Ministry’s jurisdiction in this area remained unclear. In parliamentary responses and in RTI responses to MediaNama, the ministry had previously stated that it had no plans to regulate online content, and that the IT Act was sufficient.

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In May, the I&B Ministry portfolio was reassigned from Smriti Irani to her deputy, Col Rajyavardhan Rathore. Rathore took a far softer tone on online content regulation, and said that self-regulation was a better route. Under Rathore, the committee continued to lack any scheduled meetings, before ultimately being disbanded.

Read: As India looks to regulate Internet content, some issues to consider

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