No plans to introduce censorship on online streaming content: MeitY

MUMBAI: Even as the Information & Broadcasting ministry has spoken in favour of bringing video streaming platforms under the regulatory framework, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has categorically stated that there are no plans to censor online content.

“Government is committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens as enshrined in the constitution of India. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has no plans to introduce censorship on the content appearing on online streaming platforms,” Minister of state for electronics and information technology Sanjay Dhotre has said in the Rajya Sabha.

He also informed that several petitions/Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been filed against online streaming platforms in Supreme Court and High courts of India on the regulation of digital content.

These include (i) Civil Misc PIL Writ Petition No. 5196 of 2018 Sudesh Kumar Singh Vs Union of India through Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Others, in the High Court of Allahabad, (ii) PIL 127/2018 DivyaGontia Vs Union of India in the High Court of Bombay (Nagpur Bench), (iii) WP 18801 Maatra Foundation Vs Union of India in the Madhya Pradesh High Court ( Jabalpur Bench), and (iv) SLP 10927 /2019 Justice for Rights Foundation Vs Union of India in the Supreme Court of India.

In response to a question, he further stated that the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 has provisions for removal of objectionable online content. “Section 69A of the Act empowers Government to block any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any Computer Resource in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above.”

He also noted that section 79 of the Act provides that intermediaries are required to disable/remove unlawful content on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency.

“The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 notified under this section require that the intermediaries shall observe due diligence while discharging their duties and shall inform the users of computer resources not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is blasphemous, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, and unlawful in any way.”

In October, I&B secretary Amit Khare had sought suggestions on the issue of regulation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media. Speaking at the joint Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) event, Khare said that the regulatory issues arising out of the convergence of technologies need to be addressed.

Khare’s remarks came close on the heels of I&B minister Prakash Javadekar‘s suggestion that there should be some kind of regulation for OTT platforms on the lines of print and electronic media.

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