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Intermediary Guidelines Rules 2021: IT Standing committee to hear from MIB, MEITY on ‘functioning of CBFC’

Credit: Aditi Agrawal

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology will be conducting a meeting on the Intermediary Guidelines Rules notified earlier this month. The committee, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, will receive a briefing from representatives of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) on the Rules in the context of “Review of functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)” on Monday (March 15).

The agenda reads: “Briefing by the representatives of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Intermediary Guidelines in the context of examination of the subject ‘Review of functioning of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).’”

The next day, the committee will also head from representatives of MEITY and Ministry of Home Affairs on the subject “Review of Cyber Security Scenario in India”.

It is unclear as to what the committee will deliberate on since the functioning of the CBFC is unrelated to the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The rules prescribe a three-layered regulation and oversight system for OTT streaming services. One of the mandates on streaming services — by virtue of their being “publishers” — is to classify all their content by age. This means they have to rate content irrespective of whether the CBFC has certified it already. 

Tharoor has in the past been critical of the CBFC’s mandate to censor films, which he claimed goes against artistic freedoms. In 2018, Tharoor had introduced a bill to amend the Cinematograph Act, batting for reduced powers for CBFC. In a tweet later, Tharoor said CBFC should not have the ability to censor films, and should only certify them under various categories.

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The committee’s hearing on cybersecurity, meanwhile, comes only days after a report by US-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future claimed Chinese-backed hackers had tried to inject malware and sabotage critical infrastructure in India — including power generation facilities — earlier in October 2020. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh later said that the state cyber cell had found preliminary evidence that the blackout that had affected Mumbai in October was indeed the result of “cyber sabotage”.

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