The IT rules require streaming services and digital news publishers to hire complaints officers and undergo a three-step complaint process with the government at the helm.

Over 40 over-the-top streaming services (OTT) and 1,800 news publishers have submitted information about themselves to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in accordance with the rules for information technology (broker liability and code of ethics for digital media) in 2021, the MIB said in parliament on Friday.

“The ministry has also held outreach and webinars with the editors to effectively implement the rules,” I&B Minister Anurag Thakur told BJP MPs Arjunlal Meena and PP Chaudhary in the Lok Sabha. “The ministry has received notifications from several associations and representatives of digital news publishers and OTT platforms about the establishment of self-regulatory bodies under the rules,” Thakur added, without specifying the bodies approved by the ministry.

Why it matters: The IT rules that require streaming services and digital news organizations to hire compliance officers and be part of a self-regulatory body seem to meet more resistance from news organizations than streaming services, as most major OTT platforms meet the requirements without protest while news organizations have filed several cases in the courts (see below).

IT rules and legal challenges

In cases before the High Courts and the Supreme Court, news organizations and individuals have argued that IT rules are burdensome, unconstitutional, and could lead to self-censorship and the government exceeding powers. The government has requested that these cases be referred to the Supreme Court. The Kerala Supreme Court on July 9th gave television stations’ websites relief from any government coercive action against the rules. On Thursday, Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam filed a legal motion to repeal the rules.

Regarding the provisions of the IT rules that apply to social media intermediaries, WhatsApp has asked the Delhi Supreme Court to challenge a “traceability” requirement in the rules that they claim compromise the security of the service could. This provision of the rules essentially forces messaging platforms like WhatsApp to help the government identify the sender of a forwarded message.

Here are the legal challenges for IT rules that are pending in courts across the country:

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  1. Digital News Publishers Association & anr v. Union of India & anr: Madras Supreme Court, petition.
  2. TM Krishna v. Union of India & anr: Hearing scheduled for July 14th, no update on the Madras Supreme Court website since. Petition.
  3. The News Broadcasters Association against the Department of Electronics and Information Technology: Kerala High Court, suspension of coercive measures granted.
  4. Foundation for Independent Journalism vs. Union of India: Delhi High Court petition denied twice.
  5. Live Law Media Private Limited & ors v Union of India & anr: Kerala High Court, petition, suspension of coercive measures granted.
  6. Sanjay Kumar Singh v. Union of India & ors: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
  7. Quint Digital Media Limited & anr v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
  8. Press Trust of India v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, petition marked FIJ v. UoI.
  9. AGIJ Promotion of Nineteenonea Media Pvt Ltd & anr against Union of India & anr: Bombay High Court, petition, trial alleged postponed with regard to the transfer application.

Full question and answer

QUESTION

Will the Minister for INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to note: –

(a) the details of the total number of over-the-top (OTT) and digital news media platforms that have complied with the Information Technology Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics), 2021; and

(b) the details of the self-regulatory bodies established with the members of each of these self-regulatory bodies?

REPLY

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING; AND MINISTER OF YOUTH AFFAIRS AND SPORTS (SHRI ANURAG SINGH THAKUR):
(a): The rules for information technology (Broker Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media, 2021) were announced for compliance on February 25, 2021 by the publishers of news and current events in digital media and the publishers of curated online content (OTT platforms) . More than 40 OTT platforms and 1,800 digital news publishers have also provided the ministry with the information required under the rules. The ministry has also liaised and held webinars with the editors to effectively enforce the rules.
(b): The Ministry has received notifications from several associations and representatives of digital news publishers and OTT platforms about the establishment of self-regulatory bodies under the rules.

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