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Govt finalises rules to regulate digital media, streaming services

The government has finalised the rules to regulate internet intermediaries and streaming platforms. The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has prescribed a sea change in how internet-based businesses and organisations — which include social media platforms, OTT streaming services, digital news outlets, among others — will be regulated by the government.

A copy of the draft rules — which is expected to be released shortly after a press conference today by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar — was released by advocacy body Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF). A copy of the draft can be found here. We have reached out to the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology for comment.

Regulation of digital news media: The draft rules have defined “Digital Media” as “digitised content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks”. It includes content received, stored or transmitted by and intermediary or online papers, news portals, news aggregators, news agencies and other such publishers of news and current affairs. It excludes “replica” e-papers of newspapers and user-generated content (possibly, user comments).

“Significant publishers” of news and current affairs would have to notify the Broadcast Seva portal of the I&B Ministry. Entities that (i) publish news and current affairs as a “systematic business activity”, (ii) operate on Indian territory and (iii) have no less than five lakh subscribers or fifty lakh followers on any significant social media intermediary will be considered “significant publishers”.

Traceability still mandated: As with the previous version of the draft rules, traceability of  the originator of messages is mandatory on “significant social media intermediaries”. This ostensibly challenges end-to-end encryption on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal.

Streaming services: The draft would force streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video, who objected to an independent appellate body for hearing streaming complaints, to submit to the authority of an appeals body headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court justice. If this body believes that the content violates the law, it would be empowered to send the content to a government-controlled committee for blocking orders to be issued.

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This is a developing story and we will be covering the draft rules in greater depth through the day. Please stay tuned to MediaNama for more coverage. 

***Correction (12:22 PM): The document was incorrectly referred to as a draft. Its official title is “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021”. Originally published at 12:08 PM.

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