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YouTube’s updated terms tell publishers to submit details in tune with the IT Rules 2021

The platform’s decision reflects its acquiescence with the controversial Rules being contested in courtrooms across India.

A YouTube channel publishing news or current affairs content will have to furnish its details to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), the Google-owned video-sharing platform has said in its updated Terms and Conditions that will go into effect from January 2022.

In an email to Google users, YouTube said that under Rule 5 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021) Rules, 2021 “if you are a publisher of news or current affairs content, you are required to furnish the details of your accounts on YouTube to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India”.

YouTube’s updated terms and conditions | Source: YouTube

Rule 5 of the IT Rules 2021, states that an intermediary which publishes news and current affairs content on a website, mobile-based application, or both “shall furnish the details of their users accounts on the services of such intermediary to the Ministry […]” The section also says that publishers who have provided such information will be given a “mark of verification as being publishers”.

The IT Rules 2021, imposes additional requirements of compliance for significant social media intermediaries such as Google in this case, and also for publishing platforms across the spectrum such as a digital news channel or an OTT platform. Recently, we have seen how non-compliance with the IT Rules has resulted in a months-long legal tussle for Twitter. The Rules, in fact, are being legally contested in various High Courts of the country with many claiming that they are unconstitutional and that they infringe on fundamental rights.

Instances of YouTube content being considered “illegal”

In the Uploading Content section of the Terms and Conditions, Google has stipulated instances when content would be considered “illegal under Indian law and the consequences when our systems identify such content”.

For example, YouTube said —

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  • The content one submits must not include third-party intellectual property (such as copyrighted material) unless one has permission from that party.
  • A person or publisher is legally responsible for the content one submits to YouTube.
  • YouTube will use automated systems to analyse the video to help detect infringement and abuse, including spam and malware.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of the requirement of adhering to section 5 of the IT Rules 2021, has garnered its fair share of criticism —

IT Rules FAQ on news publishers still leaves questions unanswered

Recently, the Indian government published the frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the IT Rules, 2021 which was intended to provide clarity on the provisions of the rules. However, it left several questions unanswered. For instance, this is what the FAQ had to say in context to news and current affairs publishers —

Proof for news and current affairs publishers: The IT Rules direct intermediaries to publish a clear and concise statement informing publishers of news and current affairs content that they have to furnish details of their user accounts on intermediary platforms to the Ministry in order to obtain a verification mark visible to all users.

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  • What needs to be addressed: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has not explained whether a contractual representation that a publisher has furnished details is enough or is actual proof needed for the intermediary to provide a verification mark.

Indian govt approves self-regulatory bodies for news and current affairs publishers

The Indian Digital Publishers Content Grievance Council (IDPCGC) was approved in October 2021, as a level II self-regulatory body for publishers of news and current affairs content under the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, as per a notification on MIB’s website.

There are only three SRBs that are listed on MIB’s website apart from IDPCGC:

  • Web Journalists’ Standards Authority
  • News Broadcasters Federation- Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBF-PNBSA)
  • Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council

The IT Rules, 2021 have laid down a Grievance Redressal Mechanism consisting of a three-tier structure for publishers of news and curated content.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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