Indian government raises concerns with digital media regulation

Last month the Central Government announced plans to oversee an increasing number of digital media and entertainment outlets. This has raised concern that extensive regulation might suffocate the sector and border on outright censorship.

By Talib Khan
Fri, 11 Dec 2020 08:22 PM IST
Minute Read
Indian government raises concerns with digital media regulation
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New Delhi | Jagran Brand Desk: Many global news outlets also reported the news earlier this November: the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will regulate and oversee – to the best of its ability – online news, social media and video streaming platforms.

While it remains unclear how the I&B administration will enforce that legally on large social network outlets such as Facebook or Twitter, the new legislation seems to go mainly after digital content released by OTT media platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

So far most internet services had been overseen by the Ministry of Technology but they have practically never faced questions on their contents. Now what has so far been perceived as a largely liberal intellectual territory will join print media, film and theatre in facing silent scrutiny from state authorities.

Moreover, a new law passed in October requires Indian digital news platforms not to have more than 26% foreign investment. That move was similarly justified by the need to avoid excessive foreign influence in important media outlets.

Fortunately, many other online entertainment options such as the best online casino sites in India remain unregulated and free to use. Mostly based offshore, gaming platforms such as 10Cric Casino are usually offering an Indian version of global entertainment operators.

Cause for Concern or Simply Protecting the Public?

In times of great health and emotional stress, restricting entertainment options may not seem like the best choice for dealing with individual freedoms. Entertainment industry workers are reportedly worried that the new regulations might not only concern language, nudity and drugs in OTT series and online content.

A recent report by the media watchdog Freedom House is focused namely on the extended effects that the global Covid-19 pandemic has had on our mental healthcare in such trying times. Named “Freedom on the Net 2020: The Pandemic's Digital Shadow”, it analyses the Indian online and media ecosystem in light of the Government’s position to limit or completely censor online news and entertainment.

Regulating digital platforms which may cause concern to national security has never been an issue for most Indians. When the Government banned a number of popular Chinese games and apps in the summer, this was met with some complaints but was largely understood.

Pressuring social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook threads a thin line between offering truthful and informative content and censoring those same sources of substantiated truth. Sensitive topics such as national or regional pandemic developments are undoubtedly in the public interest, as are the local healthcare conditions in a particular city or state hospital.

Overtly transgressive and offensive messages, on the other hand, are not critical journalism and are questionably qualifiable as high-end content. The IT Act is intended to control disinformation, including that which “harms public health or safety”. It remains to be seen how well and how consistently the I&B administration will apply its newfound powers.

(This is a Brand Desk Content)

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