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Parliamentary panel members question legality of new rules for OTT, social media platforms

Tightening the rules governing social media and streaming companies, the Centre had announced last month the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code applicable on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video among others.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: March 15, 2021 10:51:56 pm
The Centre had announced last month the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code applicable on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video among others.

Some members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology on Monday questioned the legality of new rules framed by the government to regulate OTT and social media platforms.

Tightening the rules governing social media and streaming companies, the Centre had announced last month the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code applicable on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video among others.

Top officials of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Monday deposed before the parliamentary panel on “intermediary guidelines in the context of examination of the subject review of functioning of Central Board of Film Certification.”

The panel is chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.

Some members and the chairman asked a number of questions to the officials like whether these rules are in conformity with the legal framework, sources in the panel said.

MPs from different parties in the panel also grilled the officials as to why the regulatory mechanism consists of only bureaucrats and not representatives of civil society, judiciary and professionals, they said.

According to sources, members also asked the officials whether they had consulted stakeholders before bringing these rules.

Briefing the members of the panel, government officials justified the need for such rules in changing times and also explained the rationale behind them.

The new rules or guidelines require social media and streaming platforms to take down contentious content quickly, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist investigations.

Beyond streaming and messaging platforms, the new rules also set code for digital publishers of news and current affairs content, requiring them to disclose their ownership and other information.

Union IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that the guidelines for intermediaries and ethics code for digital media are designed to curb misuse of social media platforms as well as streaming services and disclose the first originator of the mischievous information and remove, within 24 hours, content depicting nudity or morphed pictures of women.

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