The BJP MP’s remarks follow a recent pattern of complaints against streaming services regarding the government’s IT rules.

Lok Sabha MP for Farrukhabad Mukesh Rajput constituency behaved the topic of obscene content on streaming platforms on Wednesday. Rajput, a BJP MP, called for the “hedonistic, adulterous” content of ALT Balaji, Ullu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to be discontinued. Rajput continued speaking after his prepared remarks, invoking the distraction of students from their studies, but was interrupted by Bhartruhari Mahtab, the deputy spokesman for the Lok Sabha.

Subject: Web series on the Internet with offensive content must be banned.

Shri Mukesh Rajput (Farrukhabad): Sir, with movie theater closings during this Corona period, web series have caused a sensation on the Internet (धमाल मचाए हुए हैं), which has a bad impact on society. Instead of showing good programs, they stream hedonistic, adulterous content that harms Indian culture and cannot be watched with the family. ALT Balaji, Ullu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are doing promiscuous, mundane web series, please make an effort to put an end to this. – Lok Sabha literal transcript, translated from Hindi

Why it matters: A BJP MP complaining in parliament about content on streaming platforms – instead of asking a question – matters. The BJP-led government has already introduced the Information Technology Rules (Broker Liability and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) in 2021, which require streaming services to accept complaints about content, clearly label mature shows and movies, and put in place parental controls. Rajput’s complaints indicate that these controls – already unusual and potentially problematic in democratic countries – may not be sufficient. The message to streaming services seems clear: despite all these legal measures, they may have to be careful with content that crosses borders.

IT rules and streaming services

According to the IT rules announced in February, streaming services are required for the following:

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  • Hire a complainant
  • Accept and address comments from the public
  • Join a self-regulatory body headed by an “excellent” person who can take appeals from rejected complaints
  • Deactivating content when the government requests it in accordance with the provisions of the IT Act
  • Classify all content according to the following classifications: U, U / A 7+, U / A 13+, U / A 16+ and A.
  • Content descriptions for all content related to violence, bad language, substance abuse, sex, nudity, etc.
  • Have a parental control mechanism to prevent children from viewing content that is suitable for an adult audience
  • Publish regular reports on complaints received

Not all streaming services have met these requirements, but the government seems willing to give them some time to get up to speed.

Complaints come in

Streaming services have started dealing with complaints about allegedly obscene content. For example, Netflix referred a complaint about the movie Ghost Stories to the production company that was producing it and upset one of the movie’s directors, Anurag Kashyap. Hotstar dismissed a complaint about a show’s trailer earlier this month and was challenged with the Indian Broadcasting Foundation’s Digital Media Content Regulatory Council. The DMCRC, chaired by retired Judge Vikramjit Sen, dismissed the appeal, ruling that the trailer was not a sufficient basis on which to judge the entire series.

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